Friday, August 31, 2007

Good commentary on piracy and digital media

Good blog today on CNet about NBC/Universal's recent cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face move in cutting off their contract with Apple's iTunes. If people want your product and you're not making it available to them in a way that they can use and at a reasonable price, you shouldn't be surprised that you suffer piracy. That's not a justification for piracy at all - merely an explanation. Big media wants high prices and stringent controls; the market says "nope, not gonna happen." Big media needs to become much more customer-centric.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Elephant and the Dragon

Late blog post, but a few weeks back I read The Elephant and The Dragon, a book about the rise of China and India and their differences by Robyn Meredith. I had seen her speak in Los Angeles in April; she plugged her book and it sounded quite interesting. Indeed it was - if you like Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" then this book is definitely in the same vein, providing more historical/cultural context for Friedman's thesis with a little less focus on the "what's happening now."

The book is a quick read and perhaps a bit superficial (especially if you've read Friedman's works), but - partly due to its currency - nevertheless an enlightening comparison and contrasting of the quite different tracks that these two Asian Giants have taken.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush is finally comparing Iraq to Vietnam

But I think he's missing the point. He frames Vietnam as a war that we abandoned too early - and points to a lot of badness that happened subsequently (Khmer Rouge, re-education camps, etc.) as the result of our withdrawal.

What this misses is the exact same lesson that I believe he is missing in Iraq today: that you can have all the military success in the world, but having great success on a military mission that is fundamentally a political/social problem is like trying to keep your house dry by building the most incredible concrete foundation while ignoring the leaky roof above. You need the dry foundation for sure, but without the roof you're kinda wasting your time.

As far as I can tell, our military is doing a very good job of providing security, given the job we're asking them to do. The problem, however, is that our floundering on healing of ethnic divisions is counterproductive to the job we're asking the military to do. Every day that the divisions are not addressed leads to more people growing frustrated and taking up extremist roles. This is not "blaming America", but merely pointing out that we haven't fixed the leaky roof so we should hardly be surprised that the watertight basement is nevertheless filling with water.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Scary potential overreaching power grab

I've posted here a number of times about how the recording industry just doesn't get it with regard to DRM (Digital Rights Management) and copyright. While in no way condoning copyright violation or abuse, I feel quite strongly that the industry is usually its own worst enemy.

Today I saw news that the industry may consider sharing of music on one's home network to be a violation of their rights. Fortunately, this is still in the "novel theory" category, but it is a chilling point of view to advocate.

I personally have a rather large (5000+) collection of songs ripped from CDs (perfectly legal - for now, at least!) to my hard drives throughout my house. How often do I listen to a CD? Never anymore. How often do I listen to music from whichever hard drive is closest to me? Quite frequently. It's not worth the inconvenience of searching for the disc and moving it to the nearest player in order to play it.

Yet somehow, the (potential) argument being made by copyright holders is that somehow it is perfectly legal for me to listen to music in any room of my house if I go through a bunch of hassle-inducing steps to move the CD from room to room. But if I don't go through the physical motions, somehow that provides the basis for a copyright violation. How does the physical medium possibly change the copyright status of my listening to music? I've legally purchased the CD, which means I've legally purchased the right to listen to the music therein. I could certainly run speakers throughout my house, so why is playing it through arbitrary speakers in my house OK while playing it through a network to another computer which then puts it on speakers in my house somehow crossing the line? (To clarify above: I play from one of two sources; I keep two sources so that one is a backup of the other).

Here I am, playing by the industry's rules (i.e., actually BUYING the CDs!), and now they're saying they'd like to criminalize my behavior. If that isn't hating one's customers, I don't know what is.

Heck, now I'm seeing news stories of ASCAP demanding that restaurants and others pay royalties for playing copyrighted songs. This makes sense to me when the restaurant plays a CD (that's a public performance, not a personal use) or hires a band that plays covers (although in that case, shouldn't the musicians pay?), but they're also going after restaurants that have a TV or Radio playing. Maybe I'm missing something, but didn't the TV/Radio station already pay for the right to broadcast to an unlimited # of people? And if so, isn't making the restaurant pay "double dipping"?