October 19, 2006Fox News this morning raises the alarming prospect of the IRS taxing financial transactions taking places in online virtual communities like Second Life and World of Warcraft. So far people like Rep. Jim Saxton of the Joint Economic Committee are giving the proposal the thumbs down, but I guarantee we haven't heard the last of it.
October 18, 2006From The Wall Street Journal, via \. The unusual alliance demonstrates a new tack being taken by the music industry to deal with the challenge posed by widespread music piracy. For years, the industry has been suing individual downloaders and file-sharing services, hoping to discourage the practice. In a tactic little known outside the music industry, record labels have also started to hire outside companies to plant "decoy," or fake, files on the sites. (One such company, ArtistDirect Inc.'s MediaDefender, says it has deployed decoys for as many as 30 of the top 100 Billboard songs at any given time.) The decoy files frustrate users because they fail to download even though, thanks to the...
October 17, 2006Sometimes, a regulatory idea comes along that is so stupid and offensive, one assumes it couldn't actually be real. "Who could possibly think this is a good idea?" one asks. This morning it's deja vu all over again with news that the EU wants to force anyone posting video online to be licensed as if they were a television broadcast network. That means that CNN International and your favorite video blogger are now looking at the same regulatory compliance burden. Taking video clips with your cell phone and putting them on YouTube or MySpace, by this defintion, makes you an "online broadcaster." Fortunately, for the moment, only Slovakia has stepped forward to officially embrace this proposal. On that note, Slovakian video bloggers beware. Let's just make sure no one tells the FCC about this. They may not go this far...
October 13, 2006Former Random House editorial director Jason Epstein has an interesting take on Google's place in history, and how the Google Library project could be the next step in the evolution of human knowledge. He waxes a bit much when he suggests that Google's compromise with the Chinese government “calls to mind the expulsion, naked and trembling, of our ancestral parents from prelapsarian Eden,” but overall it's a good piece. One of the most interesting details is the existence of the world's first “ATM for books” — and the fact that it's only a few blocks away form where Open Market is generally written:...
October 10, 2006To continue the Google-YouTube discussion begun by Peter, take a look at what some /. folks are saying about Google's potential exposure to copyright infringement lawsuits. YouTube, of course, has already signed deals with some very large content companies, and more of the same can be expected now that they've got Google's corporate clout (and cash) on their side. It only takes one company with a valid copyright claim, however, to seriously gum up the works. Hopefully the today's content creators will realize (as our own Jamie Plummer had explained) that the best path to protecting their rights...
October 6, 2006Google raised some doubts (some even from CEI) about copyright protection when they launched Google Library, but now the project is having just the positive effect its backers said it would: increasing book sales. It turns out that making information easier to find means people will seek out more of it. In other words, if Google can lower transaction costs of finding just the right books one is looking for, people will buy more of them. No word yet on whether the RIAA and MPAA have yet learned any lessons from this.
October 2, 2006Sad news for online poker fans: Congress has effectively outlawed Internet gambling, as part of legislation widely expected to be signed into law by the President. The efforts to keep you from winning it big (or losing the rent money) via the web are not new, of course. We need only look back to analysis done by our good friend Thomas Pearson, Esq., that appeared as early as 2000 and 2001 to see how long our would be saviors have been trying to protect us from the temptations of e-games of chance.
October 2, 2006ICANN is moving toward greater autonomoy and away from direct ties to the U.S. Department of Commerce. As long as it doesn't end up under some kind of United Nations control, this looks like a positive development.
September 20, 2006
In what, for now at least, seems like good news, the
Theft Task Force has recommended that the federal government stop forcing
citizens to reveal their Social Security numbers to officials and for reasons
that have nothing to do with their Social Security benefits:
Under the plan, the task force urges the government to
review the uses of Social Security numbers as employee identification and
determine ways in which it can conceal or eliminate their use in agency systems
and paper and electronic forms.
The initial recommendations come as the government has
struggled with high-profile data breaches. At least 10 agencies in recent
months have reported incidents, which included the loss of a...
September 14, 2006No matter what anyone thought of the ABC's “The Path to 9/11,” the actions of certain senators who objected to the miniseries should give everyone who values the First Amendment a big chill. A letter signed by Democratic Senators Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, and Byron Dorgan not-so-implicitly threatened ABC's broadcast license if it aired the drama that was deemed to be critical of the Clinton Administration. The letter they sent to Robert Iger, CEO of ABC parent Disney, stated bluntly that “[p]resenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law, to your shareholders, and to this nation.” The letter spent the whole second paragraph explaining to...