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  • Italy Criminally Charges Google

    July 25, 2008
    The Times reports:
    Google is to face criminal charges in Italy over a video which appeared on one of its sites showing a disabled teenager being taunted by his peers. Italian prosecutors have indicated that they will press charges against four Google executives over a video which was posted on one of the search giant's Italian sites in 2006, which showed four youths making fun of a disabled teenager in a classroom in the northern city of Turin. Magistrates who have recently ended a two-year investigation into the incident claim that the airing of the 191-second clip, which showed the youths...
  • XM-Sirius to Finally Be Approved

    July 24, 2008
    It's about time. The XM-Sirius merger will go through, as the FCC finally gets the third commissioner on board. But now, in addition to an enormous wait and a series of draconian restrictions on the new company, XM-Sirius will also be fined $20 million for not building an interoperable receiver - a point that will, of course, be moot once the companies merge. It's good news that XM and Sirius will finally be allowed to merge, but the FCC made the process a total...
  • DNS Redirect Hubbub

    July 21, 2008
    When you try looking up a website that doesn't actually exist, you generally receive an error message from your browser. But if you use the Canadian ISP Rogers, you'll instead get a Rogers-sponsored page with ads. This practice has tech news site ArsTechnica up in arms. I guess Ars believes that internet users have a god-given right to their browser's error messages. But ad-supported error pages provide more revenue for ISPs, allowing them to lower prices. And, if you don't like the way your ISP returns invalid DNS lookups, you can (in addition to switching to another ISP) run your own DNS operations, using free web software like Open DNS. ISP DNS redirection: not a crisis in need of government intervention.
  • Take-Down Notices for Fair Use

    July 21, 2008
    My colleague Sam Glaser and I have been discussing this article at Ars about take-down notices for fair use. Apparently, Universal's practice has been to send take-down notices for all use of copyrighted material, whether or not the fair use exemption applies to the material. Universal claims that it cannot determine what use is fair and seeks to assert its rights to material, then figure out whether the use was exempt later. It does not want to be prevented from sending take-down notices just because some use may be fair. But, Ars points out, "no one wants rightsholders to sue over uses that are 99.5 percent likely to be found 'fair' in a court." In my discussion with him, Sam noted that hosting sites like YouTube have no better way to tell what content is "fair use" than Universal...
  • Downloading not Hurting DVD Sales

    July 15, 2008
    Ars reports that DVD and Blu-Ray sales are up during the first half of 2008, compared to the first half of 2007. Rentals are up even more. Apparently, downloading is not as prevalent as the MPAA would make it seem. Adams Media Research concluded that "there is very little digital downloading going on." People are still willing to pay Netflix that $17 a month for three DVDs at a time. A side note: Ars suggests that movie rentals may be an inferior good. In a weakening economy, Ars contends, "perhaps part of consumers' money-saving efforts involve cozying up to a movie at home for entertainment instead of heading out for a night on the town—or downloading from the Internet."
  • Cuomo Seeks More Newsgroup Bans

    July 11, 2008
    Hans reported earlier on New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's "voluntary" agreement with some ISPs to ban newsgroups in a misguided effort to stamp out child porn. Now, Cuomo is expanding his effort to reach even more ISPs. As I pointed out earlier, these "voluntary" - but really coerced - agreements to censor content are a disturbing trend. California and France have both adopted this strategy of taking end-runs around free speech...
  • Mobile Internet Becoming a Growing Force

    July 9, 2008
    According to a new report from Nielsen Mobile, the US leads the world in mobile internet consumption, with 15.6% of cell phone subscribers using the internet on their phones regularly. This number will surely only increase as smart phones like the new iPhone displace older phones. All of this adds up to a critical mass, claims the report. Expect to see "large-scale mobile marketing efforts" soon - a whole new way of advertising that has not yet been fully exploited. Innovation in this growing area is critical - and leaving the...
  • Wireless Kills Birds, Birds Kill Wireless?

    July 7, 2008
    Ars editorializes today about bird deaths caused by wireless communication towers. Apparently, bird groups such as the National Audobon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the American Bird Conservancy met with the FCC to demand new regulations to reduce the risk of bird deaths caused by towers - even though not much is know about exactly how to prevent such deaths. The groups had earlier called for a complete halt to new wireless towers until environment assessments had been performed. Ars concludes its piece today with the statement...
  • Clever Method for Defeating Chinese Filters

    July 2, 2008
    The Wall Street Journal reports on a clever method Chinese bloggers have been using to get around automatic keyword-based censorship programs that China uses to restrict content: writing backwards. Apparently, programs are used to convert normal writing into backwards writing - and it's actually relatively readable. Yet another example of the failures of government censorship: the content you're trying to block will always get through.
  • Google Tries Contextual Ads

    June 27, 2008
    An interesting ad result following a Google search on JudaismThe New York Times reports today that Google is now displaying ads on its search results page that are relevant to not just the search that you just performed, but also to the previous search. So, as Google explained in its comments to proposed FTC principles on behavioral ads, "a user who types 'Italy vacation' into the Google search box might see ads about Tuscany or affordable flights to Rome. If the user were to subsequently search for 'weather,' we might...

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