Saturday, April 29, 2006

Do not adjust your set! Philips is controlling your media center, You have entered The Twilight Zone

This headline, "Phillips attempts to Patent Advertisment Enforcement" at CDR Zone alerted me to this story. It immediately invoked a feeling of shock, horror and deja vu!

Remember the Twilight Zone? Not the new ones, the old ones in black and white. The first series was a stunning success and even in black & White audiences were riveted! The voice at the beginning saying "Do not adjust your set, we are in control, we control the horizontal and the veritcal ...."

Half a century later they control your remote and yoru media center! They are Philips Electronics. Philips announced (the patent was filed in 2003) that it had patented "Apparatus and method for preventing switching from a channel during an advertisement display", United States Patent Application: 0060070095

This is a horror story we have all imagined in at least one nightmare. In reality we have all experienced it in our DVD players where the FBI warning cannot be skipped (unless you know how) and you go straight to jail!

That is a minor annoyance for about 3 seconds. This measure is positively draconian! For the duration of the adds viewer would literally loose control of their media centers! However, you could "buy" your way out of the commercial by paying your Cable company an amount of money. So you would now not only pay for the cable subscription, and get to watch the adds (how does that work? We pay for the content, then have to watch adds which we are told pay for the content... does that seem odd to anyone?).

Lets try anther scenario. Microsoft has been working on a Media Center the heart of which will be a PC running Microsoft Windows the Vista incarnation. Judging by th past security performance and the number of viruses out there for this singualar Operating System, this scenario is quite possible.

Evil Virus writer Ivan Borisivich Badinov (son of Boris and Natasha Badinov) who also has an extortion racket running on the side writes a virus which his botnet takes control of your media center instead of the cable company. You are forced to "The Music Box Dancer" or "Born to Be Alive endlessly, until you pay Badinov Orginization X amount of dollars, your media center will be released .... until the next time. (Like father, like son, yet another of Boris and Natasha's get rich quick schemes, thanks, Rocky & Bullwinkle)

I am also reminded of the 1953 (I think) cult Science Fiction classic "The Twonky' a Television which his wife purchased for him takes control of his life. /read the plot summary at the All Movie Guide

I believe this to be a case of prior art and that all Philips Electronics has done is re-invent "The Twonky". Case closed, Patent denied! (I wish!)

Every time you think the Entertainment Industry has gone about as far as they can go, something more absurd takes its place. Its like something out of Douglas Adams. Odd, isn't it, how yesterday's Science Fiction becomes today's reality ... or nightmare.

There is a rather good editorial at the Taipei Times orginally from The Guardian, London, April 16, 2006 Page 12

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Cat is Out of the Bag: SCO Spills the beans

The cat is out of the bag! SCO has finaly spilled the beans on what its now three year long litigation against IBM is all about! They even have a real Unix expert in
Max Rockind.

The danger in becoming a recognized expert in one area of study is that one (of necessity) neglects other areas. Perhaps Mr. Rochkind should have done more interdisciplanary studies instead of concentrating so heavily in Computer Science.

He only shows his ignorance of the concepts of copyright and patent. A lawyer he is not! Should methods and concepts be copyrightable, the whole GNU Linux project is a copyright violation, since its raison d'etre from the beginning was to write a Unix-like operating system based on its concepts but that had no copyright encumbered code in it.

In a way it is the same misconception that Linux was produced from Minix because Linus used Minix as a scafolding upon which to support Linux until Linus had written a cross compiler for Minix which could cross compile for Linux.

Because the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver is built on the same principals as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco does not mean it is a copy of it. It may look like the Golden Gate but it is surely NOT the Golden Gate though the similarities are striking and intentional.

Max Rochkind spent so much time burried in the actual code that he forgot that he was looking at a totally different Operating System. He has assumed that Linux IS Unix. Did he not notice that FreeBSD impliments a Linux file system inside its own in order to run Linux applications?

Let me fall back on the musical metaphor first used by Richard Stallman, but I'll say it this way; Between Bach (who summed up harmony and counterpoiint for the 17th and part of the 18th Centuries) and Wagner (at the end of the 19th Century) there is nothing new harmonically or contrapuntally in Western European music. It is all built on the same concepts which Bach summmed up. But look at the endless stream of completely original music between Bach and Wagner!

Imagine that! A totaly free and open system in which everyone was free to develop, write and produce music and which still allowed for copyright, commmerce and a free market system.

Somehow, the system whihch allowed Joseph Haydn to publish and be paid for his music, as well as for performances of it has been turned into a prison system which is strangling true creativity and invention. These days the Xerox PARC lab would be impossible OR Xerox would have been suing almost everyone currently writing computer software or designing PCs or PDAs!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Both the French and Yahoo get it wrong!

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you; me thinks France is an expert at it! France's trade Minister Christine Lagarde is quoted by Yahoo as saying:
"Any time a company restricts competition in a market, it gets the attentio
of regulating agencies. We have to play by the rules of the game," she said."
Apple? Restricting competition? I think the French have forgotten who created that market. If it were not for Steve Jobs doing the hard grunt work and getting his hands grimy dealing with the music industry executives adn the likes of the vultures at the RIAA, there would be no real legitimate music market.

Truth be told the real monopolists are the players in the music industry who have all but been caught price fixing in at least 3 countires I can think of off hand. Ask yourself why it is that all CD's seem to cost the same (or virtually the same) in any market you might think of?

Why, when the cost and end retail price of everything related to computers has dropped preciptously in since the mid-eighties has there been no price reduction at all until the last year or so? Price fixing and monopoly? Virticle monopoly, the music industry controls the whole game from the beginning production, recuitment, promotion, distributrion or music products except for the end retailer.

I dont' know of another industry in which that would be allowed. But perhaps this just another volley in the Great French Frie Debacle purpetrated by a U.S. politician a while back. (Americans are so over the top with the meldrama! They try to turn everything into a daytime soap opera!)

Now for Yahoo; later in that report they state:
"Apple Computer Inc. has always refused to allow its paid-for musc files downloaded via iTunes to be converted into another format, which would allow them to be listened to on a music player other than its iPod."
Not so, you can listen on your Windows PC, you can shuffle the audio off to your home stereo system, you can even use Airport Express to run an Optical connection out to your surround sound system and use the ADDA converters to convert the digital signal into electrical impulses for your amplifier. As well, you can always burn the tracks purchased at the iTunes store to CD. Now if that isn't transfering from one format to anohter I don't know what is. As soon as they are on an audiio CD, you can do what you want with them.

It may be a circuitous route, but none the less, the method is there and should be well known... everyone does except the press!

Thanks to Ars Technica for pointing me to the Yahoo story!

Odd, isn't it, that I seem to be able to take my CD's almost anywhere and play them. I can play them in a car, in a personal player with earplugs, I can take them to a friends place and play them. I don't though, you see, people want to "borrow" them and they have a way of not coming back to me. So those completely portable shiney discs never leave my apartment!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Feisty Independent Canadian Recording Lables Speak Up!

Following in the footsteps of Nettwerk Records, major Canadian Independent recording lables have broken with the CRIA. This news rocked the Canadian Recording Industry today with reports on Howard Knopf's blog Excessive Copyright article "
CRIA - What Lies Ahead?" and and Michael Geist in "Removing the C from CRIA" and the CBC,'s Arts & Entertainment article "Indie labels break with CRIA".

Prominant Canadian Indie Lables like Anthem, Aquarius, Nettwerk and True North label have removed themselves from the digital distrotion field generated by the CRIA.

In a previous post I talked about the distiction between entities in the music industry. The afore mentioned entities, Anthem, Aquarius, Nettwerk and True North are all true recording lables. They record and produce their own recordings. What you are now seeing is the real Canadian Recording Industry. Many will not know these names because they are relatively low in profile though their output is prodigious.

These small and some that have grown to be not so small are the wrokhorses of the recording industry. They give artists a real chance at success. The group we call "The Major Labeles", those multinational recording industry congomerates, then swoop in and grab them up claiming that they discovered these artists. The credit should go to theses smaller lables. Mostly they are started by people who love music and love the industry. They are the ones that give heart and soul to the industry. They deserve our support.

What ever the reson for this break with the CRIA it is nothing but nothing healthy for the Canadian Recording Industry since it separates the real work horses of the Canadian Industry from the multinational conglomerates who operate in Canada as supposedly Canadian. Mostly they are poor excuses for their industry and take more from the Canadian public than they return to the country culturally.

I am scratching my head trying to think of Canadian Jazz artists on any of these lables. Dianna Krall is the only on that comes to mind. But she began her recording career with one of the Canadian Indies "Justin Time Records" from Montreal before moving to GRP and finally landing with Verve, owned and distributed by Universal.

You know that we have a living and vibrant Jazz community in Canada, but you'd never know it by looking at the so called Major Lable's catalogue. This countries Jazz musicians are woe fully neglected by these major players. As I pointed out above, Dianna Krall's first and second release were on a small Montreal Lable, they did the hard work of promoting her when she was largely unknown. Oscar Peterson got his first recording break o
n the Verve lable when it was a small indepenent start up Jazz lable.

The Canadian Classical scene is represented by only slightly more Canadians, Ben Hepner on BMG, Canadian Brass on Phillips (if they are currently recording) and l'Orchestre Symphonique du Montreal's contract has ended with Decca/London. But outstanding pianists like Louis Lortie and Angela Hewitt all record for small indie lables, Louis Lortie records for the Chandos lable and Angela Heweitt for Hyperion.

So, readers, you see those multinationals arent' really doing Canadian artists any favours at all. They scoop up the stars and leave the rest.

Further, let me make one point very clear. Despite statements that the CRIA is speaking for creators, song writers and composers, in reality they represent none of the above. They can only represent their own interests and that of their shareholders. All the rest is the distortian feild they have generated to deceive the public and above all, our politicians and law makers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I Hate DRM: The Revolt of the Masses

Please note: This has been reposted, and moderation turned back on due to spam!

For a while now there has been rumblings of dissatisfaction with Digital Restrictions (officially its Rights) Management. The loudest objections seem to have come from the open source community, but that may be only becuase I am listeing closet there. However, this site, I Hate DRM f
inaly puts a point on it for the masses.

In general, people tend to grumble a lot about things they do not like and do not much of anything. This looks like it is going to be different. The masses, those of us who spend our hard earned dollars on items which are going to locked down by this draconian technology are finally making some audible, coherant noise about it.

This technology is not about copyright law, it is about restricting acess to things which you have already paid for. It will never hurt people who are willing to circumvent the usual safeguards (like making a CD a read only device), for they will only find a way around the new restrictions. It will hurt those of us who have always bought and paid for our media in the accepted ways.

Why does the music industry want this so badly? I believe that they would like to move to an "on demand" model, where content is made available as you ask for it, once listen, or view at a time, and on a pay per instance basis. Those of us who have already amassed large collections are already spitting venom over it. Now ordinary users are becoming upset.

Currently the recording industry puts all its energy in finding that one big hit which will sell millions. The truth is that most of the best CD's I own have never sold in that quantity and never will. The public's current dissatisfaction with the state of the industry comes from the frenetic attempt to produce hit after hit. In the attempt to produce hit after hit, the industry puts pressure on its herd of stars (yes, I am aware that I'm talking about them like cattle, because that's the way the industry sees them.

Each artist signed has contractual obligations to release a certain number of albums for the duration of their contract. While they live up to the obligation, there is no guarantee that the result is in anyway isnpired, nor is it guaranteed to produce the massive sales the industry expects of them. No one can guarantee that.

Increases in sales cannot be fueled in this mannner, the leaders in this industry who are largely accountants, lawyers, and holders of MBA's do not understand this. They think the sucess they want can be had if they find the right formuala. However, public fashion has never followed a predctable path. The audience theses business executives is playing to is stubborn, fickle and determined to make up their own minds. How do you predict the next fad in the 13 to 19 age category? The failure of the industry is partially in believing that they can accomplish this.

The music industry continues to chase and court the most fickle of its customers while ignoring what is its bread and butter. Catalogue sales are what makes the industry profitable, not top 40 or top 100 hits because they are largely sold at rock bottom prices. It is the cutomers who come to their music retailer on the hunt for something new, something they heard, or that hard to find album or collection they have been looking for. They leave the store with a bundle of CD's or DVD's for which they have paid full price. The industry continues to ignore these people.

It is these people, the collectors, the people looking for those hard to find items and those looking for something new who will eventually not stand for DRM. It was the clasical buyer who forced the majore recording labels into putting as much content on a CD as it would hold instead of making it a carbon copy of the original LP release.

Although all good tunes follow some sort of convention, and are made of known elemants and repeated cliches, some musicians have a knack of finding way of usting them which is unexpected. It is this element of surprise and the unexpected turn of phrase which makes us leave a broadway show whistleing the tunes from it. That cannot be required in a legal document. Unpredictability is likely the most persistant quality of inspiration and creativity. No contract can guarantee it.

After studying music for most of my life, I realise that history is littered with music that is completely and utterly forgettable. It is forgotten and should stay that way. Time filteres out what has some universal message for us.

The music industry has come to think that making moeny is a right, and further that they have the right to control it. However, as we all know, there is no basic human right to make money or profit, and no inherent right to control thought or ideas. This is precisely what DRM attempts to do.

Copyright is a privialage, not a right. Our society, we the people, grant certain people the protection of our courts and our laws in order that those who create these expressions can be compensated for their work. Unfortunately most of the music industry has lost sight of that. Eventually, at a point fixed in time, that protection is withdrawn and all those expressions of ideas return to the culture and society which gave birth to them. Music does not exist outside of this cultural continuum. And thus, it must eventually complete control must be relinquished. Copyright is a limited right. DRM attempts to cirumvent this principal.

Sunday, April 02, 2006



There is a West Coast Canadian Connection with this music, one which has never quite been acknowledged in more propper music circles. Almost the exact opposite of the Seattle grunge scene, in which there was really no scene at all, all the so called scene was generated by one band. This one has a small core of muscians and no "scene" in its own city or country, but fame ane notoriety in other European centres.

I will leave you hanging about this until have have a chance to write something which does them some justice.