Category Archives: Media

iPolice

By now you probably know the sordid case of the lost iPhone and the ongoing Apple-Gizmodo spat that culminated in the recent police raid on a Gizmodo editor’s home. The raid raises two very interesting and troubling issues. The first concerns state and federal journalist shield laws and how they apply to online journalists like Jason Chen. That deserves a separate treatment that I will defer to a later post.

The second issue is why the police descended on a home in mass to break down the door and cart away six computers in what is essentially an intellectual property dispute between two corporations. The reason, it turns out, for this strange action on the part of the high-tech crime task force is that Apple sits on their steering committee.

Meet the iPolice, Apple’s very own IP enforcement squad with handy police state powers.

When you make a call and have the police break into a citizens home and confiscate his possessions, doesn’t that qualify you as an evil corporate behemoth?

Full disclosure: I don’t own any Apple products. At this rate it not looking like I ever will.

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How’s that working for you?

While most journalists blame the demise of traditional news media on the internet, there is another interesting side to it. Pew Research recently released it latest poll on how the public perceives media accuracy and the results are staggering. Only %18 percent of the public believes the media treats all sides fairly, only %29 believes it general gets its facts straight, and only %20 believe that the media is willing to admit mistakes.

These numbers have plummeted in the last couple of years and there is little evidence that they have bottomed out. In fact I predict that barring a change is strategy the numbers will be worse next year.

It doesn’t need to be that way. The media can recover the public’s trust, but it won’t be easy. The first step will be to fire most of the editors they currently have and bring in new blood committed to fair and objective reporting. That will never happen, of course, it’s much easier to keep blaming the internet.

How’s that working for you media?

AP wants the cake

Here is an interesting NYT article about something the AP is planning:

Taking a new hard line that news articles should not turn up on search engines and Web sites without permission, The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used.

Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.

First, there is no legal basis for this position. Simple listing the headline is a clear example of fair use (insert standard I am not a lawyer disclaimer here).

Second, the AP doesn’t want to end the practice, they want to encourage it, but get paid for the links:

News organizations already have the ability to prevent their work from turning up in search engines — but doing so would shrink their Web audience, and with it, their advertising revenues. What The A.P. seeks is not that articles should appear less often in search results, but that such use would become a new source of revenue.

I predict there is little chance of the AP getting what they want on this, which is to have their cake and eat it too. If they try, all they are going to do is hurt their own business which on life support already.

Will DRM kill the Kindle?

There is a lot of news lately about Amazon remotely deleting Kindle books that they belatedly discovered should not have been sold (the publisher apparently did not own the rights to the works). That the works were Orwell titles adds a nearly irresistible ironic element to the story. The legalities involved seem to cover virgin territory in the copyright law which also makes the case fascinating. The purchasers have all apparently been fully refunded, however some people have complained that they annotated their version which resulted in their notes disappearing back into the same ether that the books themselves vanished into.

Amazons position seems to be “we are absolutely right in what we did, and we promise we will never, ever, ever do it again”.

But the biggest damage to the Kindle brand from the story is the discovery by many people that remotely deleting a book from their Kindle was even possible. Surprise, surprise. What the Kindle giveth the Kindle taketh away.

And that may be the biggest problem for Kindle now. When the average person “buys” a book, even an electronic one, they believe they should own it. But Amazon will either sell them one of two things:

  1. A physical book
  2. A perpetual license to display an electronic copy of a book that has been downloaded to an approved Amazon device but for which Amazon (and by extension the publisher) retains ownership and control

That difference may be too much for many readers.

Wishful thinking

The Financial Times editor thinks news organizations will start charging for content:

The Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, has predicted that “almost all” news organisations will be charging for online content within a year.

Barber said building online platforms that could charge readers on an article-by-article or subscription basis was one of the key challenges facing news organisations.

I would point out that charging is not the same as receiving.

Jeff Jarvis has this to say about it:

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber predicted that “almost all” news organizations will be charging in a year just because they need to. Meanwhile, former McClatchy news exec Howard Weaver thinks that news orgs should get, oh, say, 10 percent of Google et al’s revenue because they, oh, should.

Amazing how news people lose their sense when they talk about news.

Let’s substitute GM for newspapers in this discussion.

Would Barber ever suggest that GM would charge more just because it needs to, with no consideration of the market forces and its competition? Would Weaver ever suggest that GM should get 10 percent of Toyota’s or Zipcar’s revenue just because, oh, it should?

Hamburglars attempt suicide

A group of European publishers has released its “Hamburg Declaration” which pushes, among other things, something called the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP). ARS Technica has this to say about it:

ACAP is a metadata standard that’s a bit like robots.txt—but on illegal steroids that cause anger management issues and can precipitate bouts of violence and heart problems. The standard aims to dictate how search engines and other aggregators handle a publisher’s content by defining usage rights that third parties are supposed to respect (more on this below). But because search engines have rejected ACAP in favor of their own news metadata solutions, the publishers are asking the EU to step in and mandate it outright:

“We need search engines to recognize ACAP as a step towards acknowledging that content providers have the right to decide what happens to their content and on what terms,” said the Chairman of ACAP, Gavin O’Reilly. “The European Commission and other legislators call on our industry constantly to come up with solutions—here we have one and we call upon the regulators to back it up”.

The say when the gods really want to destroy you, they give you what you ask for.  The European publishers want to force the search engines to deal with them on terms they control, with the ultimate goal of a revenue stream from the search engines to the publishers.

If the EU enforces ACAP as law, the search engines will drop all ACAP tagged data from their results. Here is the ugly truth (at least ugly from the publisher’s standpoint), the publishers need the search engines a lot more than the search engines need the publishers. To be excluded from the top three or so search engines is essential a death sentence from an internet presence standpoint.

Now the search engines don’t want that to happen, so I expect there to be some negotiating that may result in some pennies from heaven to the publishers. But pennies rather than Euros it will be and control will stay with the search engines.

The FTC has too much time on their hands

Apparently the FTC has too much time on their hands according to this AP article:

Savvy consumers often go online for independent consumer reviews of products and services, scouring through comments from everyday Joes and Janes to help them find a gem or shun a lemon.

What some fail to realize, though, is that such reviews can be tainted: Many bloggers have accepted perks such as free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars for a 200-word post. Bloggers vary in how they disclose such freebies, if they do so at all.

The practice has grown to the degree that the Federal Trade Commission is paying attention. New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

It would be the first time the FTC tries to patrol systematically what bloggers say and do online. The common practice of posting a graphical ad or a link to an online retailer — and getting commissions for any sales from it — would be enough to trigger oversight.

So if Kim Cameron praises Cardspace in his blog, does that trigger an FTC inquiry? I mean we all know he works for Microsoft but does he have to put a disclaimer in each posting? Or is once the main page enough?

What makes this all the more silly is that tonight ABC will run an hour long infomercial for Obama’s nationalized health care, the cost of which the administration estimates to be more than 1.5 trillion dollars (and we all know it will never be that cheap). How come the FTC isn’t investigating that?

Oh wait, I forgot who runs the FTC now.