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
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
Network Quality of Service (QoS) is the technical issues that lurks behind the policy issue of net neutrality. While there are many subtle variations of net neutrality, the concept as a whole comes from the idea that the Internet should have a “soft middle” that exerts little or no influence over the behavior of users and applications, and a very robust set of services at the edge that handle all the problems of congestion, charging, and innovation. This distinction is the point of the “end-to-end arguments” that seek to encourage designers of distributed systems to build vague and general systems in which all application-specific features are added as late as possible to the design. If elections were structured according the end-to-end arguments, there would not be any primaries, voters would simply select from a list of 50 candidates in the general (perhaps using some form of multiple-choice voting.)
The earliest papers on net neutrality, most notably Tim Wu’s “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination” and Atkinson and Weiser’s “A Third Way on Net Neutrality” carefully distinguished the Internet’s behavior from the behavior of the individual networks that compose … Read the rest
Irony of ironies: The very first complaint filed with the FCC under its Open Internet rules comes from an innovative VoIP provider against a government-owned municipal utility:
A Florida VoIP carrier has filed a net neutrality complaint against a Georgia utility and broadband provider, after the utility accused the VoIP firm of theft of service for using its network to deliver voice service without paying for it.
At David Isenberg’s Freedom To Connect conference in Washington this week, advocates of Internet Openness Susan Crawford, Vint Cerf, and Michael Copps have been touting a public utility model of network ownership while real public utilities are stifling real innovation in the real world. Don’t look too close. This case mirrors the Madison River complaint that led the FCC to adopt its initial Internet Policy Statement in 20006, except that the rural phone company that has committed the alleged offense in this case is publicly owned.
In what’s going to be seen as a response to strategic criticism, Comcast has raised the consumption cap on its residential broadband service plans from 250 GB per month to 300, the first increase since the cap was adopted in 2008. The increase is unlikely to be noticed by actual Comcast customers because the 250 GB cap wasn’t a problem. The increase hasn’t muted Netflix’ poorly-founded complaints of mistreatment.
Comcast has been criticized recently for its 250GB monthly limit on total downloads by residential broadband customers. Netflix complains that the limit is applied arbitrarily in order to keep it from growing. The Netflix complaints have been echoed by so-called public interest advocates Free Press and Public Knowledge, by the tech bloggers who generally take a hard line against networking companies such as GigaOm’s Stacey Higgenbotham, Ars Technica’s Timothy B. Lee and Nate Anderson, and the shy piracy advocates who post anonymously at TorrentFreak.
The Netflix argument is that 250 GB is so low that it discourages potential customers from using its service in favor of competing services such as the Comcast Video-on-Demand (VOD) service (operating through … Read the rest
This week, Greenpeace came out with a report that takes several IT companies – Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft – to task for relying on so-called dirty energy to power their data centers. Even disregarding the fact that the report, How Clean is Your Cloud?, inexplicably puts nuclear power on par with coal power as an unclean energy source, Greenpeace’s analysis ironically misses the forest for the trees. While it is indeed unfortunate that some IT companies and businesses in general may derive their energy from undesirable sources, the underlying issue of real importance is that clean energy is too expensive.
ITIF said as much last year when commenting on the release of a similar Greenpeace study:
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