Kazaa Fights Back

Kazaa’s owner Sharman Networks has won the right to sue the music industry for copyright infringement.

“Sharman, targeted by studios and record companies because its software is used to trade music and video files, has sought to turn the tables on the industry, accusing it of misusing Kazaa software to invade users’ privacy and send corrupt files and threatening messages.”

BigPond Locks Mac Users Out of Music Downloads

Something I hadn’t quite twigged about Telstra BigPond’s new music download service was that it can’t be accessed by Macs. An earlier entry in my Blog noted Telstra’s claim their service was unique, I think I posited the uniqueness was probably that it couldn’t be used with iPods, the besy selling, most popular portable music player in the world. iPods of course are produced by Apple.

BigPond decided to go with a proprietary format from Windows.

BigPond’s exclusive use of a proprietary format also means that an estimated 15 per cent of potential buyers cannot even browse the site because they use Apple Macs.

That estimate is open to debate, but most PCs in Australia and worldwide, are in offices where bosses generally prefer the help not to download music all day, and Mac users are keener users of cyberspace than PC owners.

eBooks Growing Into a Viable Business

eBooks – electronic copies of what otherwise would be paper-based publications – have been pretty quiet of late, after an initial burst of enthusiasm a couple of years ago. At least one retailer, Barnes and Noble in the US, stopped selling eBooks last year.

But eBooks were worth $US10 million last year, a drop in the ocean of course compared to the offline busines, but it’s gradually growing. Pundits are saying that it just needs a good eBook reader to come on the market, and sales will take off. Pretty much the same as iPod did for music downloads.

“Unlike music, the book business’s core demographic is older and female and not drawn to piracy. But the fear of “Napsterisation” has led to rather stringent DRM measures in e- publishing. Rogaty suggests things are beginning to settle down, with companies recognising that the right to use ebooks in certain ways is important to consumers.

“Another thing we need is a really good retail experience,” he adds. “What Apple has done with the iPod, the iTunes software and the iTunes store is amazingly good. We need an equivalent in the ebook industry.”

Yup, MyDoom is Our Doom

Apparently it’s official, the new MyDoom virus is the worst ever, accounting for 1 in 12 emails on the Net at the moment. Which would explain why some mail servers seem to have ground to a halt around the place, at least when I’m trying to send an email to someone there.

What many people might not realise is the virus is also something of a political statement. As well as distributing itself willy nilly, it is programmed to take over an infected computer to launch denial of service attacks on US company SCO Group. The suggesting is this is all linked to something of a storm SCO kicked up last year regarding the open source Linux Software. SCO has been ascerting it owns copyright on some parts of the software. This could be something of an inconvenience for a piece of software that is supposed to be free and unemcumbered by copyright. And which is used, by some estimates, on 70% of the world’s web servers.

There are many people who dispute SCO’s claim, but with the stakes this high, one can see why SCO might give the tyres a kick and try its luck. Reminds me of the company which claimed it had a patent on the hyperlink, and filed a courtcase wanting a royalty from ISPs everytime someone clicked a link on a web site.

Our Free World, Not

As you bash out the latest opus, or drop a line to your favourite newsgroup, spare a thought for some internet users in China. Amnesty is currently calling for the release of 54 people jailed in China for expressing opinions on the Internet.

“Prisoners included people who signed online petitions for government reform, published non-official news about SARS, communicated with dissident groups overseas, or called for a review of Beijing’s bloody 1989 crackdown on demonstrators in Tiananmen Square”

The Net provides the ultimate in democratic voices. Essentially anyone can say anything anytime and the whole world can hear. Unfortunately some government’s take a dim view of such freedom, and lock you up.

China has, I think, pretty much the most stringent controls on the Internet of any country, including hiring the major US network hardware providers like Cisco to install equipment which can monitor Chinese net traffic. Of course, if Cisco, a dominant provider of the network routers and equipment which drives the internet world wide, were to undertake such a contract in the West there would be an outcry. But capitalism is clearly happy to assist communists monitor, and thus supress, a population.

There’s good summary from a year or two ago about big US technology companies working for the Chinese government here.

PowerPoint Brought Down the Space Shuttle?

Well I know PowerPoint can be frustrating, but it also has its admirers. I hadn’t realised that some people blame it for the Columbia space shuttle crash.

“When the investigators sought out a report documenting details of the shuttle’s design or performance, they often found only PowerPoint presentations, the Los Angeles Times reported.

They suggested that using the software to present complex information – including an engineer’s assessment of possible wing damage during the mission – might have been dangerous.”

It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realise that it addresses a lifethreatening situation,” they wrote in the report on the cause of the crash. “

Online Payment and Management for Non Profit Groups

A collaboration of leading environmental groups has launched a suite of online payment and management tools for use by non-profit organisations.

The Earth Share Australia Foundation’s non-profit eGive portal provides basic contact management, database, fund-raising, newsletter and campaign tools required to run a non-profit group.

eGive also allows individuals to join participating community groups, make donations via credit card and buy goods or services. The details of donors, new members and visitors to online stores are automatically captured and eGive offers a range of communication tools, such as email lists and online email newsletters.

More. The eGive web site is http://www.egive.org.au/

Contract Between Music Companies and Listeners No Longer Valid

This is one of the best commentary pieces I’ve seen so far on the subject, written by Umair Haque on Red Herring:

“The music industry fails to understand that a primary reason that consumers illegally share music files is that they want insurance against the music industry itself. File sharing is as much about risk sharing as it is about the theft of value. Technology makes file swapping possible – but the music industry’s business model, which is at odds with the implicit contract it signs with listeners, is what makes it probable.”

Umair argues that the problem is one made by the music industry, and it’s natural that when an alternative came on the scene – the Net – consumers grasped the opportunity with gusto.

Artifical pricing – leading to a complete lack of connection between price and real product value; record companies pursuing self-serving interests; a total information feedback disconnect between the industry and the consumers. All inform an understanding of why consumers prefer to search and download music from the Net.

Beware Search Keywords

Buying keywords on search engines for advertising campaigns has proven to be one of the most successful business opportunities for the search engines, and most now are offering a service along these lines, including Yahoo and Google. But a recent courtcase, settled after 5 years between Netscape and Playboy, raises some interesting issues for the search engines.

Playbox took Netscape to court saying Netscape had allowed search keywords to be purchased including “playboy” and “playmate.”, which of course Playboy lays claim to. The case was earlier dismissed, but Playboy kept trying.

“Complaints over misuse of trademarks in search engine ads are growing because of the influence of such programs from Google and Yahoo-owned Overture Services. Google, for example, faces trademark complaints from advertisers of its popular keyword-auction program. In December, Google asked a court to rule on whether its keyword-advertising policy is legal as a result.”

Of course the big question is, how do the search engines police this? Anyone can sign up for Google’s keyword advertising, and enter any words they like for their campaign. Does Google now have to out in place a system which checks those words against lists of trademarked, patented or otherwise protected words? That could turn into something of a problem.