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Digital Transition Content Security Act

I've already contacted my congressman and am awaiting feedback. If you're in the U.S., I suggest you do the same! HR-4569, the Digital Transition Content Security Act, would attempt to mandate by law the closing of the analog hole in digital rights restrictions used by the MPAA and RIAA. Current consumer devices that convert analog signals into digital data and vise versa would no longer be legal to manufacture, and innovation in the tech industry may be crippled.

Organizations like the EFF and Public Knowledge are working on this as we speak, but they can't do it alone. Contact your representatives in the House to get this bill struck down before it goes any further. Our fair use rights under copyright law are in very real danger here, due to this bill giving Hollywood the ability to mandate restrictions on what technology can do with any piece of content. To exercise your legal fair use rights, it would be necessary to circumvent these technological measures, which itself would be illegal, in effect denying your rights by corporate mandate.

Remember, this is the industry that wanted VCRs illegal in the first place, but the manufacturers fought back and we now have the lifestyle enhancements of timeshifting and home video editing.

More info: Neuros | EFF | Public Knowledge

Posted on December 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Search Roundup: Google As Entertainment Portal, and Alexa Web Services

A few sites are picking up the buzz that Google can now break out information in the music and movies space in their search results pages. You can search for "David Byrne", for instance, and above the web site listings will be broken out some additional information. Drill down, and see an album listing, with links to several online retailers including iTunes Music Store!  Very cool... hey, what if I drill down even further?  Wait a minute- links to lyrics sites? In light of Google's conflict with the publishing industry, this might not go over too well with music publishers, who are constantly trying to get lyrics web sites removed from the Internet.

Search for a movie, like Syriana, and you will be presented with local movie theatres and show times.

With Google being the search giant that it is, trying to become more like Yahoo! indicates that they are falling into the "me too" pattern. Can their huge valuation continue like it has?

Perhaps Niche players can take another shot here as well. Alexa, owned by Amazon, is opening up their entire search database via Amazon web services! Widely hailed as a game-changing move, I see this headed in one of two directions. One, that it might continue down the road of the other search API's- more and more useless after an initial period of cool applications being launched.

The more likely direction is that innovation will sprouting up and, due to the pricing model, Alexa continues to offer the services. Even computing time is being sold! The Alexa database could be mined in ways only limited by the imagination of whomever can pay to use it, and the rates seem reasonable enough that someone with a bit of capital could set up something very interesting. Since the Amazon Web Services platform has quite a bit of open code floating out there as examples of how to use it, I expect to see some very slick apps being developed on this platform. Social apps far beyond what I've suggested previously could emerge.

Posted on December 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's True: Yahoo Acquires del.icio.us

As first reported by TechCrunch and now echoing throughout the web, Yahoo! has purchases del.icio.us, the leader in social bookmarking. There's no word on how this will integrate with Yahoo's other services, but done right, it could be huge.

Yahoo has already purchased photo tagging site Flickr, and unveiled its own tagging platform MyWeb 2.0. With Amazon getting in on tagging, the momentum seems to be increasing in this area. While search technology is (hopefully) getting better at semantic analysis, these tagging sites may provide additional insight into words, meanings, and the sites that we browse.

I think of a "tag" as a semi-reliable label on an arbitratry grouping of objects. Semi-reliable because anyone can tag anything with any word they like, which introduces noise to the system. However, humans do noise filtering and disambiguation all the time using their brains and it seems inevitable that we will be modeling that activity to some extent, improving the search and retrieval of information. While systems today seem to make good suggestions, the addition of more and more layers of context might continue to improve the user experience and the value we get.

Could machines become intuitive? One of the most intuitive things we humans do is use language. We draw understandings and make new creations without knowing how we do it at the time; it's a fully intuitive process that occurs below conscious awareness. Can we model this process in such a way as to create analogs in information systems? If so, we have a growing corpus of text, and relationships between texts through hyperlinking and tagging.

While many think of Google as building the ultimate information system, we would be foolish to overlook Yahoo, quietly building an aresnal of highly-addictive social internet tools bound to tap into the intelligence of group activity which may emerge if the right mix of constraints and freedoms is implemented.

Posted on December 9, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

iTunes Video Downloads: Now include NBC, USA's Monk, and SciFi

Apple's inclusion of ABC/Disner and Pixar content on the Video download section of iTunes was just the beginning, a taste of things to come. Today on the iTunes Music Store you can download to iTunes and your video iPod episodes of Monk, Battlestar Galactica, and many NBC television shows both new and old!  Even Knight Rider and NBC staple Law & Order are now available for purchase.

This development comes on the heels of several video-related rumors, including the possibility that ESPN might want their content on iTunes, the addition of other television networks to the iTunes download area, and speculation that Apple may release a new Mac Mini code-named Kaleidoscope with media center PVR capabilities and integrated iPod dock.

I wonder who initiated the deal with SciFi and USA.  It makes sense that Apple, looking for content producers, would be initiating contact, but you may recall that the producers of Battlestar Galactica were very progressive when they put out director commentary podcasts and even downloads of a few early episodes when media buzz was reaching its peak. The iTunes video store seems the ideal place for online media-savvy production houses to advance new ideas and content that won't make it to TV.

Posted on December 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack