Archive for the ‘Corporate World’ Category


March 21st, 2011 2 comments

Here’s a charming news story:

Higher yen could help U.S. companies exposed to Japan

U.S. companies with big sales in Japan like Aflac and Tiffany may see sales pinched in the wake of the country’s massive earthquake, but the yen’s recent sudden strength could offset those losses.

Yes. Never mind the Japanese companies that got literally flattened by the disaster, and how an unnaturally strong yen could devastate an already trashed Japanese economy. No, we have to think about those U.S. companies that might lose a few percent of sales in Japan.

Nice to see that Wall Street still has the right spin on things.

Just a Reminder

March 8th, 2011 3 comments

Here is the far-sighted Steve Ballmer, from an interview on April 30, 2007, after the iPhone was announced but before its release:

There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

Hard to believe that was just four years ago. In the same interview, he also called Apple a “one-trick pony” because it is “a hardware company.”

Today, Apple’s iPhone holds 27% of the cell phone market–ten times the 2% or 3% Ballmer predicted–and is challenged mainly by Android, an OS given away for free and used by many cell phone makers. Where is Microsoft? Fighting to remain relevant in the cell phone market, Microsoft’s market share is shrinking, currently at only 10%–down from about 40% when Ballmer gave the interview. What’s more, Neilsen, which came out with those ratings, noted that “an analysis by manufacturer shows RIM and Apple to be the winners compared to other device makers since they are the only ones creating and selling smartphones with their respective operating systems.”

Apple, in other words, is both a hardware and a software company–whereas Microsoft, ironically, is primarily a software company–far more of a “one-trick pony” than Apple. Apple, in fact, is branching out, as a reseller (the highly successful iTunes store now resells third-party music, video, books, and software), an advertising firm (iAds), and yes, is even starting to establish itself in enterprise solutions. Apple, in fact, is spreading out into new areas, while Microsoft is just struggling to hold on to what it has, and is shrinking in some areas. It is telling that despite Microsoft still holding perhaps 85-90% of the worldwide OS market share, Apple now has a market cap of $331.66 billion to Microsoft’s $218.06 billion.

One has to wonder if Ballmer still prefers his position to that of Apple’s.

Being Popular Is Not a Monopoly

February 19th, 2011 1 comment

There are severe complaints against Apple regarding its new terms for magazine subscriptions:

The Justice Department and the FTC are both interested in examining whether Apple is running afoul of U.S. antitrust laws by funneling media companies’ customers into the payment system for its iTunes store—and taking a 30% cut, the people familiar with the situation said. The agencies both enforce federal antitrust laws and would have to decide which one of them would take the lead in the matter. …

Under Apple’s terms for the new service, companies that sell digital subscriptions to content on Apple devices would be required to make it available for sale through apps at the company’s iTunes App Store at the best available price.

Buying magazine or other subscriptions through the iTunes store would require just a few clicks and use billing details already on file, giving users an incentive to use Apple’s system. Apple would prohibit media companies’ apps from linking to stores outside its App Store or from offering better terms to subscribers elsewhere, making it difficult for them to attract buyers to their own sites. Legal experts say some of those rules could pose antitrust problems.

Banning apps from linking to external sites “sounds like a pretty aggressive position,” said Eric Goldman, director of Santa Clara University’s High Tech Law Institute. “It seems like that’s purely in the interests of Apple trying to restrict people doing transactions they don’t get a cut from.”

Sorry, but this sounds rather biased against Apple. For example, in that initial paragraph, the reference to a 30% cut is made to sound somewhat insidious: “a 30% cut, the people familiar with the situation said.” The writer is suggesting that the 30% cut is some dark secret, when it’s a very open policy of Apple to take 30% of all sales through its iOS stores.

Later in the article, the 30% commission is referred to as “excessive” and “obviously anticompetitive.” However, Apple is in the position of a retailer here, and retailers often take far more than 30%. It perhaps depends upon the industry–some retailers might mark up items by a few percent, but some do it by far more. Significantly, digital sales are new and so a new standard is being defined. This is really just the publishers whining and trying to strong-arm their way into defining standards to suit them best, using the claims of anti-competitiveness as a tool to accomplish this.

The fact that Apple is a retailer, and that the iOS platform is the equivalent of a store, makes most of the objections seem rather ridiculous. For example, the publishers complain that Apple is demanding the “best available price,” Of course Apple wants to be able to offer an item for sale at the best available price–it would be objectionable only if Apple demanded that they get to sell at a lower price than anywhere else. Asking for the same price as elsewhere is the opposite–Apple is demanding that it not be unfairly undercut by others.

As for Apple’s convenience, requiring just a few clicks, that’s not unfair either–it’s simply Apple’s efficient setup. Is a supermarket violating antitrust by having an express checkout lane, or a bank by using ATMs?

The stronger objection seems to be related to the rules prohibiting apps from linking to stores outside of Apple’s, but frankly, that’s another very understandable policy. Combined with the demand that Apple not be undersold elsewhere, effectively, that’s like a store not wanting to carry a product bearing an announcement that a buyer can get a lower price by walking to the competitor’s shop next door. Would Safeway carry a brand of milk which, on the carton, advertised that a customer could “Go to 7-11 and get a better price” for the exact same product?

One might argue that Safeway does sell magazines at newsstand prices and that the magazines, within the product, offer much lower subscription rates–but, ironically, that’s a different issue. Safeway is not trying to sell subscriptions, but rather the newsstand version–very different products. It’s like Safeway selling a carton of milk advertising a tour of a dairy farm, something Safeway would have no part of.

Apple is offering subscriptions, so the outgoing links are not for a qualitatively different sales method. Now, if Apple only offered one-shot sales and not subscriptions, that would be different, the objections might be valid, especially if the publisher were trying to sell at a lower price but Apple both refused any part of it and denied the publisher from advertising it. But as it is, Apple is not doing so, and is simply saying that it doesn’t want its own product used to steer customers away from its own store.

Many times I have seen similar claims against Apple–that it is monopolistic because it has high market share in some areas. Certainly there are grounds to grumble about how Apple is rather controlling and protective of its playground. However, a monopoly is not just when a company enjoys good sales, it is when a company abuses its market share to cut off the competition.

People point to Apple having huge market shares in music sales, phone sales, tablet sales, app sales, etc. However, when Apple enjoys having the lion’s share of the market in these cases, it is because Apple was the first to come out with a qualitatively new product well before anyone else, and maintained a popular brand image as well as an excellent if not superior design. That’s not being monopolistic. A monopoly is not when you get 99% of the sales, it’s when you get 99% of the sales by using your 85% market share to beat down others.

If Apple threatens music companies to cut off their sales unless those companies agree to unfair practices–like letting Apple have lower prices than anyone else, or prohibiting sales via other retailers–then that’s a fair claim of monopolistic practices. But if Apple simply says, let us have the same price as others and don’t use our store to steer customers away from us, that’s not an unfair demand. Nor does Apple having the biggest slice of the sales pie make it any more monopolistic.

Categories: Corporate World, Mac News Tags:

Knowing When to Dial It Back

January 16th, 2011 Comments off

Have you ever been surfing the web in a quiet place, maybe at home where others are sleeping, or maybe even in a coffee shop with gentle jazz playing over muted conversation–and then stumbled across a web page that starts playing loud music or some stupid ad and you forgot your volume had been turned up all the way? Beyond startling yourself, it can be pretty damned embarrassing. Worse if you just opened six or so links and you have to figure out which new page is blaring at you, before you remember that you have a mute button for the computer itself and scramble to hit it.

There are some things web pages should never do, and one of them is to start playing unsolicited audio content.

The schmucks at ABC News now load a 30-second video commercial on every single news story page you access. I don’t mean that when you try to access video, I mean when you try to access print. A video window accompanies every story, and it starts playing video, whether you like it or not. And the audio is always on by default, no matter what you set previously. The pause button is grayed out, so you can’t stop it. If you let the news story run, it plays for 2-3 minutes–and then you get another commercial, followed by the next news story in the queue.

The only more annoying thing I can think of are the long commercials–sometimes also 30 seconds–run before videos on “Funny or Die,” where sometimes the clips themselves are only a few seconds long.

Such “must endure” commercials are bad enough usually when you ask for video content (the same commercial tends to repeat every time, for example). It’s even worse when a 10-paragraph story is divided into three pages so you have to reload and get the commercials all over again every time you “turn the page.”

But to start playing video, with no warning or option to turn it off, is simply asinine.

I’ve said it before, I would not use an ad blocker at all if the ads would simply stay still. For appropriate ad content, I would even voluntarily sign up to some kind of service where I would tell them what kind of stuff I want to buy so they could ad least make the ads less irritating. But that’s not an option. So instead, the more intrusive they get, the more I avoid those sites. The scripted “pop-up” rectangles you have to dismiss (got around the pop-up blockers, didn’t they?), the floating ads which annoyingly bounce up and down the side while you scroll–these are getting more and more distracting and maddening.

I had backed off on my ad blocking, but now I am ramping up again, as well as adding to my do-not-visit list. I know they gotta pay for stuff, but it’s as if they completely ignore the annoyance factor. If movie theaters have to advertise, for instance, they would get no business if they stopped the movie every five minutes, had people go up to every patron and thump their shoulders, and then shout an obnoxious ad message at them before resuming the show.

Do Not Follow

December 2nd, 2010 Comments off

Boy, this would definitely not have happened with the FTC under Bush. The commission is recommending that online users have a right to expect online privacy, and propose that Congress pass a “Do Not Follow” system in which, by pressing a button in a browser, a user could opt to not have his or her online activity monitored.

Before you get all excited, it is not (necessarily) about the RIAA tracking your IP address as you download the latest Black Eyed Peas album from The Pirate Bay. Instead, it’s about advertisers collecting, analyzing, combining, using, and sharing your “purchasing behavior, online browsing habits and other online and offline activity.”

What caught my eye in this report was a statement in protest of this proposal, by Mike Zaneis of the Interactive Advertising Bureau:

Most people would rather get a relevant ad rather than an irrelevant ad, which is by definition, spam.

This explains a lot. First, the guy thinks that a message is spam only if it’s not relevant. That’s an interesting definition–and dead wrong. Spam is unsolicited advertising, not non-relevant advertising. Now, spam is less annoying if it’s about things you want to buy, but it’s still spam. But Zaneis didn’t even use the term “wanted,” he said “relevant,” which is a significant distinction.

Second, the statement completely sidesteps the more important issue–privacy–as if a user’s expectations of privacy were completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand, when in fact they are absolute in this case. This is not about annoying people, this is about protecting people from invasion and predation.

Of course, when advertising is your business and predation is your primary tool, you would naturally want to redefine unfavorable terms describing exactly what you do as being something else.

Naturally, the industry would prefer to keep on doing what they’re doing: invade your privacy, usually in an aggressive manner you are not even aware of, and bury you in ads. Allowing people to navigate the Internet without such predation is not what they want:

The online advertising industry, Mr. Zaneis said, would suffer “significant economic harm” if the government controlled the do-not-track mechanism and there was “a high participation rate similar to that of do not call.”

And if the government were to make it illegal to point a weapon at people and make an aggressive plea for monetary transfer, the mugging industry would also suffer “significant economic harm.”

Here’s an idea: Give people the option of telling you which ads they want to see. It does not have to be tracked by name, location, or IP address–instead, have a dialog box in the browser where a person can select categories of ads they would prefer to see, with the option of adding keywords. That data would then be used to target the ad types, while keeping user data anonymous. This allows advertisers to deliver targeted ads, makes the browsing experience much more pleasant, and protects privacy, all at the same time.

Add the ability to state a preference for static (non-moving) ads, and I myself would probably uninstall my ad-blocking software.

Forward to the Past

September 15th, 2010 2 comments

I have complained often in the past about how the airlines are slowly squeezing the seats together in Economy class so they can get yet another and another row of seats they can get a bit more money out of every flight. Domestic flights are bad enough, but for international flights, it’s sheer torture, even without the other usual hazards of airline travel (people who sit next to you being second on the list).

I remember way back when “Economy” seats were far enough apart that you could have a window seat, and with passengers in the two seats next to you, you could still stand up and exit the row without them getting up. After a few years, you had to squeeze by, and they had to angle their knees to help you. Today, it is a physical impossibility to exit without your neighbors getting out of their seats (unless you are five years old or have the ability to pass through solid matter).

Well, they’ve got their game plan to make it even worse. Witness the next generation of airline seats, the “SkyRider” design:


28 inches between seats. Keep in mind that there are a lot of people who are more than 28 inches from back to front. (One has to wonder if there are laws which do not allow you to charge people a premium for transportation based on their physical makeup, especially if it entails progressively squeezing people to get more money from them.)

I saw this a few days ago, but seeing Sean post on it brought it back to mind. Note that in the illustration above, they do not depict a person between the rows, and for an excellent reason. Forget not being able to open your laptop, this design will make it impossible to get out your iPad. Or get out of your seat without an complex system involving cables and a hoist.

As it happens, I have special connections within the industry, and have acquired a design schematic of the next generation seat design after the SkyRider, borrowing from “classic” models:


OK, slight exaggeration. But you know they would if they could. How far are we evolving, where we are on track toward paying for this.

Categories: Corporate World, Travel Tags:

The Future of Television That Probably Won’t Be

August 26th, 2010 Comments off

Seven years ago, I wrote a three-part blog post (parts one, two and three) on what I saw as being the future of television. And despite the fact that TV content producers seem intent on taking a very different course, I stand by my assertion that the system I described back then would be the best available, given the bandwidth.

My idea was based upon the difference between broadcasting and narrowcasting, and how ad revenue is generated. Currently, television initially generates revenue by being broadcast over the airwaves, carrying advertising (more and more each year, it seems) during the commercial breaks. The problem: it is difficult to create an ad that will appeal to more than just a small portion of the audience. You are sending the exact same ad to millions of people who are so varied that most will not respond to the ad, and some may even have a negative reaction to it. As a result, the effectiveness of ads is only a tiny percent of what is possible, wasting the vast majority of ad revenue potential.

In recent years, another two revenue streams have appeared for these shows: sales of DVD sets, and, similar in certain ways but different in others, online sales of the episodes. While ads may still play into them, these versions mostly make their money by the customer paying up-front. A season of a TV show on DVD might range from less than $20 to up to $100. TV shows for download often cost $2 an episode.

There are significant problems with these models. As mentioned above, TV broadcasting is massively inefficient. Add to that the fact that shows are dribbled out by day or week, disappear and are inaccessible for months or years at a time, and appear only on a pre-determined schedule which is easy to miss. Not very user-friendly.

Sales of DVDs had an initial burst, but now the medium is struggling a bit more. People are catching on to the fact that paying $150 for a full series of TV shows seemed like a good idea at first, but later realize that they might never watch it again. Furthermore, since these must be bought physically, they are not available on demand, immediately on a whim. (Services like Netflix successfully play to these weaknesses.)

And not many people are going to cough up $2 to watch something they can get on TV for free, or can be bought cheaper by season on Blu-ray with HDTV quality and extra features like deleted scenes, outtakes, commentary and featurettes. Frankly, I never understood that model at all. In fact, the whole idea of paying for TV is still relatively alien to many people: TV has been free for most of our lives, and many almost see it as an expected right. I’d be willing to wager that if you polled people and asked if it was wrong to pirate software, movies, books, and TV shows, most would say it was wrong to pirate the first three, but few would have as much problem with pirating TV shows. They’re on TV, after all!

All of this is tainted more by the senseless paranoia of the content producers and their fear of piracy and loss of control, which pushes them to add DRM and other restrictive features that only hurt paying customers, and result in more people resorting to piracy.

In 2003, I suggested a different take: targeted advertising and narrowcasting. Put all TV and a great deal of movie content on the web, for unlimited free streaming and viewing at any time the viewer desires. The cost: the viewer must make their commercial preferences known, filling in a bit of information once a month. When the viewer then asks for a presentation of media, the content, originally with blank spaces for advertising, is filled with ads that are targeted at that one viewer.

The benefits for all sides is great. First, the viewers: they not only get everything they want, a virtually unlimited, all-you-can-eat buffet of on-demand content, but it’s free of charge. And while there are as many commercials as before, there is a huge benefit: the commercials are all ones that you want to see.

That’s the secret: by filling out some personal info, specifically (a) what are your interests, (b) what do you plan to purchase in the near future, and (c) what kind of commercials do you like, in addition to a few other bits of indicative data, TV ads could be transformed into something the viewer will want to watch. Currently, commercials are things to avoid–mute the sound and take a kitchen or bathroom break. But the truth is, there are commercial we all want to see. But because commercials today are broadcast, perhaps 97% of them don’t interest us, so we tend to skip them all.

But what if the commercials were directed at your interests? For example, if the ads were all for movies, new books, computer stuff, and some other things I am interested in, I would probably be interested in staying with the commercials, watching them all and letting them have their hypnotic, subliminal way with my subconscious.

There could even be feedback, a “next” switch for commercials–if an ad comes up that you don’t like, just zap it with the remote. This could be used to build up data on what you do and do not like, and so be utilized to weed out the remaining commercials that you don’t want to see–kind of like Apple’s “Genius” feature in iTunes. This could also be used to sharpen their targeting; random ads could be tossed into your mix, and by analyzing what you zap, they can build up a scenario of what new stuff they can throw at you which you might like.

The benefit for advertisers should be abundantly clear: the efficiency of ads rockets from single-digits to near-perfection. Instead of people turning off ads, people will stay and watch them, and might even look forward to them. Even good commercials suffer from the taint of being commercials, with all the negativity currently associated with that medium. But if people begin to like commercials, their effectiveness will increase beyond just the growth in targeted exposure.

This will, in the end, benefit the content producers the most: because each ad sold will be up to 20 times more effective, they can up the revenue that much more. And since viewers will not mind the commercials so much, they won’t get as much blowback for adding more ads, up to a certain point of course.

But the best part is that by making the content freely available over the Internet, you completely defeat the problem of piracy. Downloading pirated stuff is not too difficult, but most people would much prefer a free alternative, and would certainly find it easier to use. If the model I describe were used, then there would be no need to resort to piracy, unless you are religiously opposed to advertising of any kind, or are the kind of person who refuses to divulge any info about yourself.

And that would be the point probably most focused-on with this system: giving up personal data. For a long time, many people have been concerned about what data is collected about them, and how it is used and potentially abused. Privacy looms large, and admittedly, the model I describe above seems to ask the viewer to surrender a great deal of that privacy.

Well, yes and no. First of all, we surrender privacy every day. When you join new web services, buy something online, or download free software, chances are you are giving away a good deal of private information, including your name, age, email addresses, physical addresses, profession, and a lot of other stuff. We commonly post personal information online, from our profile on social networking sites, to our hobbies and preferences in telling people what we like, to our political and religious feelings on blogs and forums.

Advertisers already suck in volumes of data about us. Take that supermarket member card that’s in your wallet, which you have no problem swiping at Safeway to get the “discounts” connected to it. That card is connected to your name, address, and other info they get from you and about you via other means (including public land ownership records, career info, etc.). Every time you buy stuff with it, they record what you bought, how much you bought, when you bought it and at what price, and use that data for advertising and for presentation & pricing of goods they sell you. Similar goes for your credit card trail, and other things you use without thinking about them.

The fact is, you already hand out, usually for no actual benefit to you, far more information than I propose is involved in the system I laid out. In fact, if privacy is truly a concern, then the system could be set up so that the data collected for this TV system would be completely unconnected to your name and public identity. The reason they collect your name, address, and other data is so they can use it to predict what you’ll want to buy. In the system I propose, they don’t need to do that. Frankly, I don’t think they really care what your name and address are; they only want to make money off of you. And if you are telling them exactly what you are interested in buying, what you’re looking for, then they don’t need that info, and could easily do without it.

So when you join this system, you could do so anonymously; your name and address are never asked for and never given. Nothing needs ever be tracked back to you personally. By giving more personal information, the system becomes more private.

I truly see this as being the optimal system for everyone. There’s a problem, though: fear, stupidity and greed. (Aren’t they always the problem?)

What set me off on this topic? This story about Apple’s rumored plan to rent TV shows for 99 cents. Frankly, I see this as still too expensive. Sure, better than regular TV because the ads aren’t there and it’s on my schedule, but worse than buying the DVD later on because the resolution is poorer, there are no extra features, and you don’t get to keep them.

But the content producers are calling this new model dangerous. Why? Because they saw the music industry lose their evil, usurious model, and fear that somehow something similarly bad will happen to them. So they shy away from even a model which would still be far from perfect and skitter back to even less perfect models.

Argh. It frustrates me to see them wear their fear and greed so transparently, to be so idiotic in their pursuit of fleecing the public, when it seems that a far superior system is available–but they are just backing away from it, step by fear-filled, idiotic, greedy step.

Coercion and Power

June 11th, 2010 1 comment

Imagine this scenario: you work at a non-union company, doesn’t matter which one or what you do, except that you are low in the ranks. There is someone who manages the security department, who understands the technical aspects of security really well, whereas you don’t know much about it at all. This person is high-ranking, very well-off, and has the resources of his entire department at his disposal. Additionally, this person is in tight with upper management, and is even allowed to write company policy.

Now, it appears that some people who work for the company have been stealing this person’s lunch from a refrigerator at work. Because of certain laws concerning workplace surveillance, video cameras were not an option to catch the perpetrators. Instead, the security guy claims to have acquired forensic evidence from the refrigerator and the trash, and claims that it points to dozens of people at the company–including you–as having stolen his lunches.

In retaliation, he demands that you and every other offender he identified pay the equivalent of the cost of lunch for him at a nice restaurant every day for two months–quite a hefty sum–on the accusation that you may have taken his lunch one day. If you don’t, then he will file a formal complaint against you, using the forensic evidence he claims to have collected. If the claim is successful, you will be fined, fired from your job, and have a stain on your employment record that will follow you for some time.

You may defend yourself, but you will have to hire experts in security and other people to help you make your defense, without which you don’t stand a chance–but they will cost a great deal more than paying the demanded “settlement.” And even with the hired team, you still might lose the challenge and pay the penalties anyway, in addition to the cost of the defense.

Disregarding the unlikelihood of this scenario, what would your assessment be? Is the manager abusing his power and influence? As he is in fact being robbed, is he justified in his response? Or would you simply consider him to be a petty, arrogant ass?

I see this as being roughly the equivalent of what innocent defendants face in the P2P mass-extortion nuisance lawsuit business (in which lawyers for movie producers are suing thousands of John-Doe defendants for downloading their bad movies). Even the ones who are guilty are being abused in the form of apallingly excessive fines. You don’t threaten to fine someone $100,000 for allegedly littering, or even for catching them doing it red-handed. And when a person’s guilt is ambiguous at best, extorting money from them is completely inexcusable.

Take this case of a elderly couple, both 69 years of age, accused by studio lawyers of having illegally downloaded, via BitTorrent, a schlocky violent-action film based on a first-person-shooter video game:

“My wife and I are both 69 years of age and the only occupants of this location,” wrote Wright. “Charter personnel installed the high speed equipment for our internet connection and we have made no modifications to it. If it had any features that made it vulnerable to ‘hacking,’ we had no knowledge of that. The technology is way above our abilities to deal with.”

In short, the couple’s WiFi signal was likely hijacked by a neighbor who downloaded the movie, and the couple had no way of knowing about this or preventing it. Rather than realize that a near-septuagenarian couple would not know how to download movies illegally and would never watch their crap movie in the first place, and rather than figure that continuing to attempt to extort them would result in bad press and make them look like complete schmucks, they instead smugly used legal maneuvering to essentially call the elderly couple idiots and persisted in their attempt to extort $1500 from the folks. It seems that in an attempt to give the court detailed information in their request to squash the lawyers’ subpoena, the couple accidentally invalidated their own motion–something a lawyer would know how to avoid, but the old folks wouldn’t.

The analogy I laid out at the top of this post holds true. A powerful entity–the entertainment industry–has bought off the government with bribes and essentially written the law themselves, in which they allow themselves huge rewards for what are in relative terms piffling offenses. They then use these laws in addition to the legal machinery at their disposal to extort exorbitant amounts from tens of thousands of people who may or may not be guilty of the offense and who mostly cannot afford to take the chance to defend themselves. True, offenses were committed; the lunches were indeed stolen. But the manner and method of the response is outrageously out of proportion (even for those in fact guilty), and in its scattershot attempt to nab offenders who cannot definitively be identified, they know that they are demanding huge amounts from people who are innocent and cannot afford to pay.

Read the Ars Technica article which details several cases of people who are likely innocent but fell victim either to IP address misidentification or WiFi leeching by neighbors, and are now facing the prospect of (a) paying dearly for an offense they did not commit, (b) paying more dearly to defend themselves, or (c) paying obscene amounts if their defense is unsuccessful. Worse, these people, often people who can’t afford much at all, are being forced to defend themselves in a court all the way across the country. Frankly, I think the judge should lay down these rules: that (1) the plaintiffs must sue each person individually in their district, (2) they must prove that the person in fact downloaded it and did not have their WiFi hijacked, and (3) if they fail, they must pay for the defense of the defendant.

So the question might become, how does the entertainment industry deal with piracy reasonably? Ideally, they should come clean and admit that piracy is in fact not costing them nearly as much as they claim, and that turning so viciously against the public is gaining them no sympathy from anyone. If they can truly make a case that they are losing some money from this–not the ridiculously inflated claims they publicly release–then do what most industries do in response to common cases of widespread theft: catch and punish those you can prove without doubt, otherwise just hike your prices a modest amount to compensate (something the industry is probably already doing, come to think of it). If they must take legal action, then stop with the “settlement offers,” which are little more than legal extortion–or else make the offers much more reasonable, like demanding the offender pay for the full retail value of the item, low enough that people would pay without much more than grousing.

As for the laws making the accused liable for penalties in the amount of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for downloading a $10-$20 piece of crap, they are unspeakable obscenities that do not belong on the law books, and should be stricken–and would be, if the politicians who write our laws actually worked for the people, like they’re supposed to, instead of being bought off by corporations.

Extortionists Sue ISP for Not Becoming Spy on Their Own Customers

June 2nd, 2010 Comments off

A short while ago, I commented on the recent mass-nuisance lawsuit issued by the producers of The Hurt Locker. The lawyers in that case are repeat offenders, carrying out the same tactics for a German film titled Far Cry. In that case, they are suing roughly 2000 “John Doe” IP Address holders, subpoenaing their ISPs to rat them out so they can be squeezed for cash.

One ISP, Time Warner Cable, said “no.” Their claim is that they have limited resources for hunting down the identities linked to IP addresses given by outside sources, and most of that capacity is dedicated to law enforcement, to help hunt down people like child porn distributors or other seriously dangerous people. They claim that their spare capacity is only 28 subpoenas per month–and the bottom-feeding lawyers trying to extort money in the mass-nuisance lawsuit are demanding that Time Warner drop everything else and spend the next three months doing nothing but servicing their claim against 800 of their customers. Time Warner said they were not interested, thanks.

So the scummy lawyers did what scummy lawyers do: they filed a brief against Time Warner, claiming that they were aiding and abetting pirates, threatening to sue the ISP for contributory copyright infringement.

Look, I’m not endorsing piracy here, but these filmmakers are being asses. Extorting $1500 for downloading a movie? Up to $300,000 if it goes to court? Strong-arm tactics if anyone stands in your way? There’s money-grabbing, and then there’s asinine money-grabbing. If these people were more reasonable and proportionate in seeking redress from some couch potato in Springfield who never would have paid $20 for the movie anyway downloading their film and watching it in a way that is little different in the long run from watching it on TV while muting the commercials, then OK. But demanding an ISP abandon its law enforcement duties in serious cases so they can extort a grand and a half from people like that is going beyond normal schmuckery.

The Lawsuit Locker

May 29th, 2010 2 comments

Voltage Pictures, makers of The Hurt Locker, have officially filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against “1 – 5000” John Doe defendants in “every jurisdiction in the United States” for illegally downloading and sharing their motion picture. In the suit (PDF), they allege “great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money.” Nevertheless, they are seeking to be compensated in money–specifically, pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504, at least between $750 and $30,000 per defendant, in addition to costs, attorney’s fees, and “other and further relief,” in addition to demanding that each defendant destroy all downloaded copies and never, ever even think of downloading any of their movies ever again.

In short, they have jumped on the RIAA bandwagon: file a massive, indistinct lawsuit against thousands of people in the hopes of (a) scaring file sharers into stopping their nefarious activities, and (b) raking in huge amounts of cash via what is essentially extortion writ large. It is expected that Voltage will offer “settlements” in the amount of $1500 per defendant, qualifying as extortion because, like any good nuisance lawsuit, the settlement will cost less than any defendant would pay in legal fees even if they successfully fight off the lawsuit. If all the defendants settled, Voltage would rake in $7.5 million. This assembly-line extortion is a new line of business for attorneys, just like class-action lawsuits as described in Grisham’s The King of Torts. They even go so far as to put the movies online themselves so they can more easily get the IP addresses of downloaders.

So, who are the defendants in the Hurt Locker case? Essentially, Voltage Pictures, makers of the film, have collected up to 5,000 external IP addresses, which identify only the general location of the people who downloaded the movie via BitTorrent, and have filed suit in hopes that this will allow them to legally obligate the ISPs serving those people to hand over the internal records which will provide enough information, they hope, to identify specific downloaders. ISPs who cooperate are not exactly innocent here–they make money off this as well, charging $32 to $60 for each IP address given to plaintiffs, citing costs for doing the search and notifying the address holder.

Voltage Pictures has the ability to carry out this kind of action this primarily because corporations were able to get laws passed which demand abusively large penalties for file sharing. The statute allows the plaintiff to “elect” (language used in the current suit) to take statutory damages between $750 and $30,000 per infringement, even if it cannot be proved that the defendant willfully committed the offense–meaning that if it were simply their liability, if it happened over their connection even without their knowledge, they could be still be forced to pay. I presume that this covers not having a protected WiFi network and a neighbor downloads the movie over stolen bandwidth.

If the file sharing is found to be willful, the penalty jumps to $150,000.

For file-sharing a single movie file. Yeah, that’s “justice.” The law allowing this is obscene and must be rewritten.

Let’s call this out for what it is: extortion. Legal or not, it’s is nothing less than extortion, a grab for cash by unethical means. Today, a film’s profits are measure in terms of domestic and international box office, as well as DVD rentals and sales. How long before proceeds from nuisance lawsuits are added as an element in determining the total earnings of a film?

Apple Rage

May 18th, 2010 3 comments

Thomas Fitzgerald makes a good point: there is way too much phony outrage against Apple. Every Apple announcement, it seems, receives a certain amount of obligatory scorn and accusations by people who see the corporation as an evil presence, conspiring to take over the world. The iPhone OS is closed! Apple is censoring people! Apple is a monopolistic giant! Apple is oppressive! Apple is pushing Chinese workers to suicide! Apple gouges people! And so on. iAds comes out, is eviscerated. The iPad is announced, and is eviscerated. The iPhone was announced, and was eviscerated.

It’s hard to tell if this is all the same crowd, but it is certainly a strong presence on the web. Sure, Apple has faults like every other company, and can be justly criticized on some things just like everyone else. But the criticisms are starting to become a knee-jerk reaction, usually single out Apple when problems are worse industry-wide, and sometimes take on the tinge of conspiracy theories.

The Foxconn suicide story is an excellent example. In July last year, a Foxconn employee committed suicide after losing an Apple prototype. Reportedly, Foxconn reacted abusively, supposedly contributing to the suicide. Apple was immediately blamed, the usual angle being their hyper-secretive policies about prototypes. But many companies closely guard prototypes; Foxconn is a contractor which does work for a number of tech companies, not a subsidiary of Apple; and there is no evidence that Apple played any part in Foxconn’s response to the incident, or had any influence, even indirectly.

Since then, there has been a lot of focus on Foxconn and suicides. Many are reporting a “cluster” of suicides, insinuating that Apple’s secretive nature is somehow linked to an oppressive work environment at the contractor. Note this Huffington Post article titled “Apple Supplier Foxconn Reports Eighth Suicide THIS YEAR,” with “THIS YEAR” in all caps, as if it is a shocking number. That sets the tone for the article, which, typical for articles like this, otherwise insinuates a shadowy, oppressive, iron-fisted horror chamber with Apple somehow tied in.

Terrible, right? Apple’s policies are killing these poor, oppressed workers, we’re led to believe. Except that, as stated above, Apple is just one of their clients; why put “Apple Supplier” at the start of the headline? And in fact, instead of the suicides being a sign of terrible stress, the opposite may actually be true. A few more responsible writers actually looked at the larger context and applied the Chinese national suicide rate–13.0 per 100,000 for men, 14.9 for women–and found that for the 300,000 workers at Foxconn’s Shenzhen plant, there should be between 39 and 43 suicides per year. So by now, by mid-year, we should have seen about 20 suicides at the plant so far. Instead there have been 8. In that context, one can hardly make an argument about workers being horribly oppressed.

In fact, Apple does better than most in the industry in terms of trying to fly straight. A few months ago, Apple released a report of its investigations into contractors who make parts for Apple. Apple had done an investigation to find unethical working conditions, and found some abuses. Too few companies make such inspections, and fewer still report them openly or do anything about them; Apple was acting very responsibly and openly by making this public, demonstrating a policy of suppressing such practices. So, what happened? Apple was vilified by reporters who claimed that Apple was responsible for the unethical practices, despite the fact that (a) Apple did not commit any of the wrongs, and (b) was in fact trying to stop them.

So, what’s the reason for the hate? Does it come from the die-hard Windows crowd, always trying to find a reason to fault a perceived nemesis? Is it a result of some in the media wanting to appear more “balanced,” so to counter the reports of cool gear and top-rated customer support, they look for ways to say bad stuff as well? Or does it simply come from the fact that Apple is now an industry giant with an encroaching monopoly in the mobile arena, and so is automatically judged as sinister? Or perhaps a combination of these and more.

As I mentioned above, Apple does bad stuff sometimes. They make poor hardware (mice) and software (Mail), they have predatory pricing practices (RAM chip allotment), and do other stuff which is worthy of criticism. But, just as it should be the case with Microsoft, let’s complain where there’s good reason, not on every single news release or hint of possible wrongdoing.

Just saying. And, this seems like an appropriate place to disclose that I own Apple stock.

Categories: Corporate World, Mac News Tags:

Oh Crap, I Hope Not

April 17th, 2010 Comments off

Someone has suggested that Apple will like the money made from its “iAds” service so much that they (or others, perhaps) will begin to include the ads in paid apps, or even the OS.

Good sweet dear lord no.

The thing is, that has just the right ring to it. Think of DVDs, or going to see movies at the theater, or a multitude of other things that you pay good money for, and yet they come loaded with ads. Much of the time it is not about making enough money to stay afloat (newspapers might be an exception there), but instead is just about making more profit.

I can only hope that Apple’s noted sense of good taste would prevent them from following their noted sense of making more money wherever they can, in this case at least. There’s a lot of crap I’ll put up with, but ads in paid apps or the OS?

I had not imagined this before, but now I can think of something that would make me very possibly switch away from Apple, and to Linux.

In the spirit of killing ads in stuff you paid enough to get ad-free, here’s a post with instructions on how to skip those annoying DVD previews & ads. You know, the ones that DVD machines are designed to make you powerless to stop them. (Gawd, I hate designs that work against the user.) I always did it by pressing “skip forward” when an ad starts, but would have to do that multiple times and the whole process would take a good minute or so. The stop-play, or stop-stop-play or other methods look a lot faster. Give it a look.

Paying Twice for the Same Item

April 12th, 2010 4 comments

Randy Cohen, ethicist for the New York Times, has an interesting spin on a reader’s question about pirating a book which he already bought. In short: it’s illegal, but not unethical. The reader in question already paid full price for the hardcover, so Cohen feels that there is no bad juju involved in downloading the same work for an ebook reader:

Buying a book or a piece of music should be regarded as a license to enjoy it on any platform. Sadly, the anachronistic conventions of bookselling and copyright law lag the technology. Thus you’ve violated the publishing company’s legal right to control the distribution of its intellectual property, but you’ve done no harm or so little as to meet my threshold of acceptability.

Cohen notes immediately after that, however, that publishers disagree:

Unsurprisingly, many in the book business take a harder line. My friend Jamie Raab, the publisher of Grand Central Publishing and an executive vice president of the Hachette Book Group, says: “Anyone who downloads a pirated e-book has, in effect, stolen the intellectual property of an author and publisher. To condone this is to condone theft.”

I’m definitely with Cohen on this, although he’s a bit wrong on what lags behind what (see the next paragraph). What the publishers want, of course, is the ability to re-sell the same product to the same consumer over and over again, and call them “separate” purchases. I liked my purchase of the Star Trek Blu-ray because it contained a digital copy which I could use on my computers and my iPhone. Including a DVD-compatible version would be even better. The point is, you should never be forced to pay twice for the exact same thing. Publishers, of course, want as much of your money any way they can get it, so they fight for the paradigm of device-centric purchases.

Partly to blame here is the mindset that came into play with business purchases of software. Because businesses would use the same software on hundreds or thousands of machines, instead of having to wastefully purchase that many physical copies of the software, they would buy just one copy. That copy would come with an EULA (End User License Agreement) that would spell out exactly how the software could be used–how many machines or users, in what environments, etc.

Soon enough, the EULA was popping up everywhere, including personal purchases of software. If you buy a copy of a program for personal use only, you may have to pay several times–one each for every computer you use it on. Sure, if there are different versions for different devices, like for Windows, OS X, and the iPhone OS–that represents separate products which the author must work to produce. But for the exact same product on two machines using the same OS? How is that really fair, when there’s only one user? Depends on how you see it, of course–and of course, sellers will want to see it in the way that makes them the most money.

Most users see it differently: I am one person using this content, I should not have to pay to use it in two different places. Some extend that not just to themselves, but to family–after all, if I buy a book, I don’t have to pay for my family members to read it; within the home, there is a “community property” sense at work. While the same could be said about lending to friends, most people would agree that the ethical line ends pretty sharply at the borders to your house, and some will say it ends around the individual user. Publishers insist that it ends around the individual device. Often times a compromise is met which reflects these sensibilities; for example, your iTunes account can be extended to five devices, enough for most families. Some software comes in heavily discounted “family” packs.

However, the EULA was seen as an opportunity for content publishers in the digital world, who applied it to music, video, and all other forms of media. Publishers realized that they could use the EULA to keep that cash register ringing: sell a movie on DVD, then on Blu-ray, then for the computer, then again for the mobile device. As the number of devices which can play media multiplied, publishers saw the number of sales opportunities similarly multiply, and so have since aggressively pushed the idea that any copying, in any form is illegal and shameful. That includes ripping your CDs to iTunes. You’re a criminal, they insist; instead, if you want to use your iPod to listen to the music which you already bought on CD, you must go to the iTunes Store and purchase it again digitally, like a good little consumer. Naturally, most consumers call bullshit on that and rip away.

What it comes down to is perception and control. Are you buying a thing, or the rights to use a thing in a very specific way in a very specific place? Once you buy something, do you own it for personal use, or does the publisher maintain both ownership and control, with you simply having the privilege of looking at it in the way the publisher approves of? It could be argued both ways, with publishers claiming that the idea of copyright in itself asserts eternal control by the owner over intellectual property. But publishers try to go beyond that, not just controlling the rights to the intellectual property, but also controlling a consumer’s personal use of that property. If John Grisham writes a book and I buy a copy, he still owns the story, but he does not control the specific book I bought, nor can he dictate to me how I read it. Publishers are trying to change that, at least in the digital world (though you know they would do the same in the physical world if they thought they could get away with it).

As I laid out a little more than fours years ago, once you apply the digital model to a physical purchase, the “eternal control” concept and most EULA terms come across as ludicrous. If you purchase a paperback book, it does not come with an agreement that you will only read it at home, and that reading it in a cafe, at the park, or at work would require additional payment. They can’t charge you extra for reading the book in bed, or using a book-light with it. In purchasing the book, there is no legal way for the publisher to prohibit you from later selling that book to another person. Nor will they try to–people would seriously balk at that, the idea being contemptible.

And yet this is precisely the kind of control and re-purchasing which the publishers are trying to foist on people with the transition to the digital medium. If you buy digital music, digital movies, or ebooks, you will not be allowed to re-sell these things, even if you paid more for them than you would have for a physical copy. And many will forbid you to transfer the work to another location, or else severely limit it. Technically, I am violating my purchase agreement when I rip a DVD I bought so I can view it on my computer or iPhone, unless they specifically say I can.

Screw them. I say the traditional model holds. Cohen is right: if you pay full price for a book, you paid for the book content to be at your disposal. Downloading the digital version of the book is no crime, as the publisher and author have already made their money off of you. In my book, forcing a consumer to pay again for something they already bought is, if not illegal, then certainly unethical. Now, if the electronic edition is different, if it contains extra content like audio, video, or even changes one would expect in a subsequent edition, that’s not kosher to download for free; it represents added work. Sure, you can grouse that the 47th re-re-release of the “Star Wars” soundtrack only adds two tracks that the other five versions you bought don’t have, and George Lucas is being a schmuck for trying to make you pay for the same music over and over again just to get the new snippets–but there’s new content, and so you can’t say you already paid for it.

Publishers instead insist that it’s all in the agreement, and will refuse to sell to you unless you agree to their terms. The law, over time, has sided with the traditional model (remember the whole debate over recording video at home?), but more and more I fear that the content cartels will get more and more restrictive laws passed, like the DMCA, and eventually consumers will be forced by a government bought and sold to work against them to toe the publishers’ line.

Irresponsible Reporting

March 1st, 2010 Comments off

This time it involves Apple. The British publication Telegraph printed what appears to be a damning exposé on Apple’s bad business practices. From reading it, for the most part, it sounds like Apple was caught misbehaving, an impression bolstered by tangential reminders of past abuses.

Apple admits using child labour

At least eleven 15-year-old children were discovered to be working last year in three factories which supply Apple. … Apple has been repeatedly criticised for using factories that abuse workers and where conditions are poor. … Apple admitted that at least 55 of the 102 factories that produce its goods were ignoring Apple’s rule that staff cannot work more than 60 hours a week. … Apple has not stopped using the factories.

First off, to say that Apple “admitted” anything sounds like it confessed, that it was caught red-handed; that’s not the case, nor is it that Apple used child labor–its contractor did. Despite the article’s insinuation that Apple was being investigated by some outside source, this was a case of Apple investigating its contractors. Instead of turning a blind eye or even being complicit, Apple actually made rigorous checks of the business practices of the contractors, and instead of keeping any violations secret or covering up, it published its findings publicly, with assurances that it is taking steps to end these practices. What the Telegraph article also fails to state is that Apple is perhaps the only tech company which does these checks. Other companies simply ignore the abuses. Many in the comments section, despite the multiple criticisms of bias, state that they now see Apple in a bad light and will stop buying its products–something which might have been the reverse had the article reported the facts correctly and without the harsh anti-Apple slant. As for the past abuses: the workers exposed to the toxic gases, the worker who committed suicide, the reporter who was roughed up–none of these were Apple, they were all contractors, and Apple seems to be trying harder than anyone else in the industry to stop the abuses. Would I prefer that Apple changes suppliers? Sure, but then it’ll have to deal with the next supplier just the same. Maybe Apple could be doing more or better–but at least it’s doing something.

But I guess it makes better copy to falsely intimate that Apple is the bad guy here. Now, I have a pro-Apple bias–I’m a shareholder and fan–but at least I don’t hide it, and try to stick to the facts. Bad form, Telegraph.

Thanks for the Purchase, You Filthy Thief

December 17th, 2009 2 comments

Well, it finally happened. I bought a DVD the other day–bought and paid for–and what’s the first thing that pops up when I play the DVD? A commercial accusing me of stealing movies. Add that to the commercials being shown to people who just shelled out $40 for a pair of tickets in Japanese theaters accusing them of stealing. It’s bad enough that we’re forced to watch commercials for a fully-paid-for version of entertainment. To make them pay and sit through commercials and accuse them of stealing is pushing it way too far.

Do the film studios not understand how truly insulting that is?

Categories: Corporate World, Entertainment Tags:

For the Artists

December 8th, 2009 3 comments

You know there’s a scam afoot when some big entity wants something enacted which will profit them handsomely, but holds up a sympathetic face as the “real” benefactor of the scheme. Wealthy people and corporations do this all the time through politicians–whenever there’s a tax cut for huge corporations, for example, the “small business owner” is always trotted out as the real reason the tax cut is being proposed. But in reality, small business owners end up getting reamed because the real benefactors, big business, become more engorged and able to crush the small business owners.

This is the strategy used by the music labels when they do anything concerning their “war on piracy”: they trot out the poor, beleaguered artist, claiming that it’s all for them. Of course, none of it’s for the artist–the artists, of course, get reamed by the labels, who force them into horrifically unfair contracts. The music industry is nothing more than a parasite, a middleman grown into a monster which dominates the entire business, holding both artists and audience hostage. Whenever the labels want a “piracy tax” on blanks CDs, digital audio players, or any music delivery system “for the artists,” you can be damned sure that the artists aren’t getting squat from it. Whenever they want new legislation which gives them perpetual control over something you have paid for, or the ability to violate your privacy or otherwise treat you like a criminal, or to sue more easily so they can extort more money from those unable to defend themselves, you can be sure that the winnings don’t ever get distributed to the artists.

Case in point: the artists are suing the music industry in Canada for stealing their music and not paying for it. Yep: the big music labels–Warner, Sony BMG, EMI, and Universal–have been pirating music for more than two decades. That’s right, they were pirates before online file sharing was even possible.

Here’s how the scam works: in Canada, there’s a loophole in the copyright law which says that if a music label wants to create a “compilation” CD (hey, that’s a mix tape!), then they don’t need to get the artists’ permission beforehand. Instead, they only need to make the CD’s and then place it on a “pending list,” the claim being that they will eventually get the permission of the artists and pay them the required royalties.

You get one guess as to how that worked out.

Yes, that’s right: the music labels put more than 300,000 songs on the “pending list,” and never paid for them. Maybe that should be the legal defense for any P2P file sharer sued by the labels: “The songs were on my Pending List! I was eventually going to pay for them! After a few decades! Maybe!” Why not–after all, that’s what the music labels have been doing, cheating the artists out of at least $50 million in royalties.

The irony of this situation deepens: you know how the music labels lobbied for and got a ridiculous $7500-per-song penalty against file sharers? Well, by Canadian law, there is a potential $20,000 penalty per song which is abused in this fashion–meaning that the labels are now potentially liable for more than $6 billion in damages.

And the artists are suing.

It will be interesting to see how the industry defends itself. They’re the ones who have been claiming that ripping off artists is the primary crime committed; they’re the ones who have pressed for the full damages possible when they even have circumstantial evidence of stolen music. And in this case, the music labels themselves have admitted they’re doing this.

I am certain that I am not the only one here who hopes that (a) no settlement is reached, and (b) the court rules for the artists to the full extent of the law. The only regret here is that the labels will probably be able to limit damages to their Canadian branches only–the bulk of their businesses are probably shielded from damages. But if the Canadian labels claim they aren’t worth a collective $6 billion, then they can simply have 100% of all music profits redirected right into the artists’ pockets, with interest, until the full amount is paid off.

After all, it’s for the artists.

Categories: Corporate World, Law, RIAA & Piracy Tags:

Clamping Down in Spain

December 3rd, 2009 Comments off

Wow. If true, this article at Gizmodo makes it sounds pretty bleak in Spain. The author claims that not only is there an “artistic tax” (a tariff handed over to the music industry on a wide range of consumer products that assumes you steal their stuff), but now Spanish law gives the music labels the power to shut down any alleged P2P web site for any reason without due process or presumption of innocence.

The “if true” part is the key; such claims are often exaggerated, and this certainly sounds overblown. Spanish people must both pay extra taxes directly to the music industry for stealing music, and the music industry gets to shut down web sites without a warrant? Sounds a bit much. But then again, it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility.

Here are a few alternate sources.

Categories: Corporate World Tags:

Even More Annoying

November 30th, 2009 5 comments

Screen Shot 2009-11-30 At 2.53.39 PmJust when you though web ads couldn’t get more annoying. Already, it’s annoying enough for YouTube videos to have those ads that pop up at the bottom and have to be clicked away, but at least there you figure that they have to make revenue somehow. But now the same ads are appearing on regular web sites over photographs. Accidentally mouse over them and ads pop up. This easily clears the “unnecessarily annoying ad” hurdle.

The ads pop back down again only when you mouse over a new one. You can train yourself to avoid them, like you do when you see a double-underlined link–but you first have to discover them, and with photos, they are not apparent.

Google text ads I like fine, and I even follow them sometimes (a big thing for me, as I tend to hate ads–I only follow non-offensive ones). But any ad that moves, even a little, is enough to drive me away from a site. I figure I’m not alone in that.

If John McCain Were President…

October 24th, 2009 1 comment

John McCain is threatening to circumvent the FCC’s authority to decide Internet policy–he is that committed to reversing a decade and a half of successful Internet policy and handing control of the Internet to the Telecoms for free (those campaign contributions were just a coincidence). He is spouting the industry line that Net Neutrality will introduce “government control” which will impose “oppressive regulations” which will stifle “continued innovation that will in turn create more high-paying jobs for the millions of Americans.”

Which, of course, in technical Internet terminology, is commonly referred to as “bullshit.” Net Neutrality, far from oppressive regulation, is a policy which says that government and industry must take a “hands-off” stance and let people use the Internet as they see fit, without anyone standing in the way. McCain wants to end that, and burden the Internet with slowdowns, fees, prohibitive industry-mandated rules, and other garbage which will win you nothing but will cost us all. OK, maybe he doesn’t want that, but it’s what he’s trying to make happen.

Without Net Neutrality, the Telecoms can and will start telling you what you can and cannot do on the Internet; they will start charging you and everyone else more, and will not spend any of it on “innovations,” just like they failed to the last time they got Congress to give them something in exchange for empty promises of investment and upgrades.

If Net Neutrality is shut down as McCain hopes, the Internet economic engine will have an industry-wide tax imposed which will go straight into the pockets of the Telecom shareholders. It is this that will stifle innovation, making it more difficult for start-ups to get off the ground, slowing down the economy and killing off jobs in a valuable area.

McCain, like so many other Republicans, is nothing but a witless shill for the industries that fund him. He’s been in the pocket of the Bells since the 90’s, and will continue to be. Yet another reason to be thankful that he lost.

Musical Fascism Receives a Blow

October 16th, 2009 Comments off

Good news, everyone: a federal judge swatted down a claim that every time a ringtone sounds, the copyright holder must be paid. The claim was that in addition to being paid for the ringtone outright, the rights-holder should also get money every time a “public performance” occurs–i.e., your phone rings.

A step in the right direction, but by no means a complete and final answer to the music industry’s relentless drive to have everyone pay them money every time anything happens with anything even remotely related to music.

Categories: Corporate World, Law Tags: