On Sunday evening, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a report that reviewed the trials and tribulations of Kim DotCom—the self-styled villainous creator of the website MegaUpload. Prior to its infamous shutdown in 2012, MegaUpload was the premiere website for the illegal sharing of copyrighted works such as movies, TV shows, and music.
The 60 Minutes piece focuses primarily on the perspective of DotCom, including his delusion that he has been unfairly targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He repeatedly states that he should not be held responsible for the actions of his users; the website was designed for file sharing, and what his users chose to share is not his concern. In fact, DotCom expresses a desire for his work to be compared to that of movie heroes such as James Bond, only to have Bob Simon aptly point out that he is in fact much closer in persona to Dr. No — the flamboyant lifestyle, the private island, etc. It is this persona that DotCom alleges is responsible for the FBI targeting him, rather than the fact that he built a website designed to illegally exploit copyrighted works … Read the rest
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University rolled out a new website this morning— piracydata.org—that attempts to collect data about whether or not the most pirated movies (as ranked by TorrentFreak) are available for lawful viewing online. The site’s authors seem to suggest that 1) the content industry is doing a poor job of making content available; and 2) piracy would go away if the content industry would just release more movies sooner, cheaper or in a different format. Both arguments are wrong.
First, let’s look at the fact. The website had several errors at launch, and it still had some errors as of this afternoon. (For example, Pacific Rim is currently available via YouTube rental.) But using corrected data we can see that six of the ten movies listed are available legally on various digital sites (Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, etc.). In addition (and not mentioned on the website), three of the ten are available for purchase On-Demand via Comcast and four of the ten are available on AT&T U-Verse. The idea that studios are not making movies available to consumers is nonsense. Today there are more ways … Read the rest
It’s an interesting phenomenon—issues we thought were long settled in American politics are being re-litigated, including tax policy, food stamps, and even the role of the federal government in general. Therefore it’s perhaps not surprising that the issue of copyright has come under question. Historically, conservatives have been supporters of strong copyright protection because for them a key function of government was the protection of property rights. These conservatives have long accepted and even embraced the role of the state to grant and enforce copyright status.
However, there is one strain of conservative thinking that actually favors limited or even no copyright enforcement. With their overarching focus on freedom, some libertarians now argue that copyright, as the grant of monopoly by government, impinges on the freedom of individuals. Because for these libertarians, liberty trumps property rights, individuals should be free to use digital content in ways they want and content holders, not others such as digital intermediaries or governments, should be responsible for policing its use.
We see this in the recent writings of libertarians such as Simon Lester, a prominent trade policy analyst for the Cato Institute, economists Michele … Read the rest
The importance of data to the U.S. economy continues to grow. For example, in the United States the economic value from health care data is estimated at $300 billion annually, while $90 billion is generated from global positioning system (GPS) data, and $10 billion from weather data. And these examples just scratch the surface of the potential for data to transform a wide range of sectors including energy, education, finance, health care, manufacturing, and transportation.
Unfortunately, while President Obama has signed an historic executive order on open data and various government agencies have begun to promote data-driven innovation within their communities, such as the successful Health Datapalooza, there is still no federal government agency responsible for developing and implementing a national strategy to promote data-driven innovation across all sectors of the economy. To help fill this void, the Department of Commerce should establish an Office of Data Innovation.
The Office of Data Innovation would be responsible for facilitating data sharing between organizations and reducing barriers to global information flows. It would evaluate the impact of data-related regulations on competition and innovation in different industries, work with other … Read the rest
Some technological changes sneak up on us so quietly we do not even know it has happened. A perfect example of this is video programming. It was not too long ago when consumers had to drive to a store to rent a movie at the local Blockbuster rather than just start streaming a movie instantly with a few clicks on Netflix. Today consumers have more options than ever for legally obtaining video content. The market shows an unprecedented amount of competition as businesses experiment with different business models and technologies to deliver consumers video content. Both ISPs and over-the-top providers deliver video on a variety of formats including traditional programming, on-demand, and “on the go” options. In fact, there are so many options—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, HBO Go, Dish Online, Crackle, etc.—that consumers have more choice today in video programming than ever before.
These changes are not only occurring in the United States, but also globally. Worldwide there are hundreds of legitimate streaming services that consumers can access. And consumers are accessing this content in new ways. Whereas we used to measure the percent of … Read the rest
Yesterday the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a lawsuit against Google for illegal wiretapping could proceed.
The case involves Google’s Street View project which provides online access to panoramic views of public streets in cities around the world. To build the database of images, Google sent vehicles into cities to photograph public streets. At times, these vehicles also unintentionally recorded data that users were transmitting over unencrypted wireless networks. The central claim of the lawsuit is that this collection of unencrypted data from wireless networks is a violation of the Wiretap Act. Google argued that the case should be dismissed because the Wiretap Act exempts “electronic communications” that are “readily accessible to the general public.” In its ruling, the Court denied Google’s motion to dismiss.
The basic logic of the Wiretap Act is that if people do not take action to make their communications private, then they do not have an expectation of privacy. For example, if two individuals use unscrambled CB radios to have a conversation, then other radio users are not in violation of the Wiretap Act if they hear this conversation. … Read the rest
Television and film fanatics around the United States: rejoice. Yesterday, the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) stated it was changing the method it uses to calculate Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in order to better reflect the economic contributions that come from the creation of copyrighted works, like films and television. In other words, GDP now encompasses the economic activity of the culture-aholic’s favorite sector (spoiler alert: the creative one!).
Prior to this change, the economic contributions of the film and television industry were treated as current expenses — or costs of business. GDP only captured the film and television industry downstream, based on the revenue generated by Hollywood’s tangible products. It did not include the impact on the economy based on investment in film and television. The change reflects that in economic terms, films and television works are an intangible asset. Long after they’re first developed, these creations continue to retain their value and deliver residual benefits; films and TV shows are licensed and sold to different markets for years after their original release so that nerds all over the world can enjoy Game of Thrones … Read the rest
In To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism Evgeny Morozov rails against two ideologies he labels “Internet-centrisim” and “solutionism” which he defines, respectively, as the belief that the Internet should be used to explain the world and the belief that the world needs fixing. His opposition to Internet-centrism makes him a critic of not only technology advocates like Jeff Jarvis but also detractors like Nicholas Carr. His opposition to solutionism makes him a critic of everyone else.
In particular, Morozov’s directs his disgust at those who he thinks combine these two ideologies to blindly use the Internet as a model for solving societal problems. This makes popular books like Wikinomics, What Would Google Do? and Here Comes Everybody primary targets. To use an analogy, if the Internet is a hammer, he thinks people are obsessively debating which issue should be the next nail, rather than asking the more important questions of “should we be using this hammer?” and “why are we even hammering?”
To be sure, hype over technology can be taken too far: the Internet will not single-handedly cure cancer, eliminate poverty, and end … Read the rest
Online activists have started promoting a new manifesto for the Internet. Unfortunately their message was written in code. Luckily I’ve obtained a secret decoder ring that decrypts their message. I’ve posted both the original and decoded message below.
They say: “We stand for a free and open Internet.”
They mean: “We want free Internet service and free content.”
They say: “We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles.”
They mean: “We want all views we disagree with discarded after an open and participatory process.”
They say: “Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.”
They mean: “Don’t take down pirated content.”
They say: “Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.”
They mean: “Everyone should be able to quickly download pirated content.” … Read the rest
On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology is holding a hearing on the video business that will address the retransmission consent/program carriage issue. There is a legal requirement for cable and satellite companies to carry most local programming, and they pay a fee to the programming conduit for the privilege of compliance. These negotiations often become very ugly, as the local network affiliate typically values its programming much too dearly, but the cable/satellite company has no choice but to pay the asking price. The FCC is supposed to limit the price to “just and reasonable,” but in practice they never get involved at all.
People who get mad at the cable company for raising the price of service year after year invariably fail to realize that programming costs to the cable companies escalate year after year as well, so putting all the blame on the cable company is essentially shooting the messenger. One of the witnesses at the hearing is Gigi Sohn, founder of Public Knowledge, so I suppose the panel will get an earful of that sort of thing. Dish Networks has a clever little DVR that … Read the rest