Friday, September 12, 2003

Hollywood & Washington decide what you can't keep

DVR/PVR owners should be up in arms over the latest FCC rules coming down from Washington that seek to placate the Hollywood Industrial Complex.

SHOWBIZDATA is reporting that the Federal Communications Commission has issued new rules for recording programs off digital television - and while DVR/PVR users may record movies that are broadcast on pay-per-view or video-on-demand channels temporarily, they may NOT copy them onto DVD! The ruling was seen as a compromise with the motion picture industry, which had sought to bar all recordings of movies. The new rules also permit consumers to make unlimited numbers of recordings of programs broadcast over the air and to make one copy of those carried by cable networks.

Disney's idea claims to fight piracy but could ruin the rental business (and the environment, too)

CNN MONEY reports that Disney has unveiled a "limited life" DVD which will fade after 48 hours. The red DVDs turn an unreadable black 48 hours after their packages are opened -- reacting in a process similar to how Polaroid film develops.

The DVDs, which are being distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Disney's home video unit, will carry a suggested price of $6.99, but could be sold as cheap as $5.00.

The disposable DVD format -- known as EZ-D -- never need to be returned to a video rental store - which may be the harbinger of doom for chains such as Blockbuster.

Other efforts to keep customers buying dvds over and over again included the disasterous DiVX format (supported by Stephen Spielberg) which would have caused consumers to repurchase rights to watch a movie they had already bought after a certain number of screenings. That went over like a lead baloon.

And according to recent surveys, consumers aren't really interested in buying the same movie over and over again, no matter how cheap it is (on the order of 3-1).

Environmental interest groups are also up in arms, claiming that the EZ-D won't stop piracy and will just add to the landfill (anyone hear of AOL?).

TVs can tell you where they are

One time I had a problem with my cable box. I called technical support and the support guy began talking to me THROUGH the box! That phreaked me out to carry on a conversation with a cable box. Then, I realized the power being able to do this and how it could be perverted to violate privacy rights.

Now, CNN TECH is reporting that televisions, DVD players and computers could be fitted with microchips identifying their location - automatically alerting police if they change unexpectedly (forgetting to inform the cops your moving could be entertaining ...).

Now imagine the Department of Homeland Security monitoring what you watch on television under the Patriot Act? Imagine a chip like that in your car stereo which will enable them to track your movements?

I'm not talking black helicopters, here, I'm just pointing out that in order to stay free, we must be eternally vigilant that cutting edge crime fighting tools don't get misused.

You really wanna freak out, rent ENEMY OF THE STATE and see what I mean.

I read the news today ... oh boy.

Does Steve Jobs have a split personality or something? Well, not that we know of.

However, Apple is suing Apple. THE BEATLES Apple Corps is suing Apple over the iPod. This isn't the first time McCartney, Starr, and Company have gone round and round with the Jobs conglomerate. When Apple Computer was first started, the Beatles sued over the name, feeling it infringed on their Apple label. They ended up with a settlement agreement that has stood for quite some time.

Then came iPod and the iTunes music service.

And now it sounds like Sir Paul wants another piece of the pie.

Thursday, September 11, 2003


We will never forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


FORBES Magazine is reporting that Apple - fresh off the phenomincal success of it's APPLE MUSIC STORE reporting sales of over 10 million downloads - is now setting it's sites on pumping up it's two main product lines ... IPOD and IMAC.

iPod players will come with 40, 20 and 10 gigabytes hard drives and sell for $500, $400 and $300, respectively.

The iMac will now carry a 1.25 GHz Motorola (nyse: MOT - news - people ) PowerPC chip, DDR SDRAM memory running at 333 MHz, and, on the high-end, a NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics processor with 64 MB of DDR video memory. IMacs with a 15-inch screen start at $1,299, and go for $1,799 with a 17-inch screen.

Takes little girl's allowance in exchange for not taking her to court

CNET News is reporting that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has come to a settlement with a 12-year-old little girl who is an honors student and lives in a New York City Housing Authority apartment. The RIAA agreed to drop its case in exchange for $2,000 of the little girl's allowance.

"We're trying to send a strong message that you are not anonymous when you participate in peer-to-peer file sharing and that the illegal distribution of copyrighted music has consequences," RIAA chief executive Mitch Bainwol said in a statement. "And as this case illustrates, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing on their computers." (Instead, E-R predicts that their audience will send a message of their own ...)

Brianna Lahara has stated that she was "very sorry" for sharing songs and her mother echoed that by saying that won't be doing it anymore.

Luckily, the little girl has a champion ... P2P United ... who has offered to reimburse Brianna and her mother's payment to the RIAA.

"We do not condone copyright infringement, but someone has to draw the line to call attention to a system that permits multinational corporations with phenomenal financial and political resources to strong-arm 12-year-olds and their families in public housing the way this sorry episode dramatizes," said Adam Eisgrau, the executive director of P2P United.

There are plenty of reasons why music sales are down ... and filesharing isn't amoung them.

The October `03 edition of WIRED Magazine has a blurb which indicates that other factors are contributing to the drop in music sales over the past few years. Here are the numbers:

"In recent years, the number of releases has fallen 14 percent, and CD prices have CLIMBED 16% (in inflation-adjusted dollars). Listeners were paying more and purchasing less - and sales of CDs sank 7% ... what the RIAA doesn't want to admit is that the CD is reaching the end of its life cycle, just like the cassette did several years ago."

It breaks it down like this:

Average cost of a CD in 1997: $13.19.
Average cost of a CD in 2002: $15.25

Average number of new titles in 1997: 33,700
Average number of new titles in 2002: 33,433

Overall revenue (in billions) in 1997: $11.9 billion
Overall revenue (in billions) in 2002: $12.3 billion

E-R will leave it to our readers to decide if suing their customers is the right way to generate more sales.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

If you bid on an auction, you may get targeted

There may be a new scam brewing if you bid on eBay. Users are reporting getting unsolicited email from members offering great deals on big ticket items up for bid. The offers come from internal "tell a friend" links on actual auctions. But when bidders win - the sellers take the money and run.

More to follow on this as E-R learns more.

Another eBay scam is from official-looking email asking for personal information like social security numbers, credit card information, etc. eBay advises caution:

Some Community members have received deceptive emails claiming to come from eBay, PayPal, or other popular websites. The people who send these emails, also known as "spoof" or "phishing" emails, hope that unsuspecting recipients will reply or click on a link contained in the email and then provide sensitive personal information (e.g., eBay passwords, social security numbers, or credit card numbers).


You need to report these scams to eBay. Go to eBay's reporting link, and click the selection “Member Problems”, then select the issue : “I don’t think an email I received is actually from eBay”. Click the continue button, then on the next page, scroll down and click “Contact Support”

You can also take a few simple steps to protect your account and prevent senders of deceptive emails from doing harm:

- Be sure you are on an eBay page before signing in-- check the web address.
- Always use a secure server when submitting credit card numbers over the Internet.
- Do not send sensitive personal information via email.
- Use the eBay site to update account information.
- Forward suspicious email to

Do it eBay, but do so wisely.

TechTV names names

TECH TV has listed user names and ISPs which are in the RIAAs crosshairs. If you think you might be on the list, it's a good idea to CHECK HERE.

24 hours after offering amnesty, the RIAA turns their campaign of terror on individuals

Everyone is talking about it. The WASHINGTON POST leads with coverage of the story that big bad Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is now going after some 261 INDIVIDUAL file sharers.

"The RIAA suits seek an injunction to stop the defendants' file sharing, as well as damages and court costs. Copyright law allows for damages of up to $150,000 per infringement -- in other words, per swapped song," The Washington Post noted. More from The Boston Globe: "Accusing the defendants of copyright infringement, the music association is requesting statutory damages of $750 to $150,000 for each song, bringing the potential liability of some file-sharers into the millions of dollars."

According to the POST, thousands (of) lawsuits against fileswappers are expected in the coming months as the RIAA looks to make examples of "the worst digital pirates.

Of the "evil doers" ... a 71 year-old grandpa (who says his grandkids used his computer) and a 12 Year old girl!

"I thought mom had subscribed to a service. Why did they pick me?!," she said of the fact that her mother paid $29.95 a month for Kaaza's subsciption download service and it placed her as the RIAA public enemy number one.

This is as much the very face of crime, as an 80 year old grandmother being searched at the airport is the very face of terror. So, as if taking a college students tuition isn't enough, now they're going after retirement checks and a kid's allowance.

Does anyone think that elderly Derwood Pickle wants bootleg copies of RUN DMC? Does the RIAA think that this 12 yr. old kid is going to ever BUY music because she's been SUED BY MUSIC INDUSTRY? Not a chance.

And with as much as 60% of downloaders being TEENAGERS, the RIAA is truly biting that hand that they want to feed them.

Senator Norm Coleman gets it. He has pledged to hold hearings on the matter and force the RIAA to explain themselves stated in an interview:

"They (the RIAA) have a legitimate interest that needs to be protected, but are they protecting it in a way that's too broad and overreaching?" Coleman said. "I don't want to make criminals out of 60 million kids, even though kids and grandkids are doing things they shouldn't be doing."

The audience is organizing a rebellion thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and BOYCOT-RIAA.COM.

One angry mother of three teenage boys has banned RIAA music from her home: "I'll spend music money on anti- RIAA t-shirts!" She claims to spend $5,000 a year on music for her kids. Not anymore.

And one angry music fan is fighting back by counter-suing the RIAA. The "anonymous" California computer user went to court Thursday to challenge the recording industry's file-trading subpoenas, charging that they are unconstitutional and violate her right to privacy.

"This is more invasive than someone having secret access to the library books you check out or the videos you rent," Glenn Peterson, one of the attorneys, said in a statement. "The recent efforts of the music industry to root out piracy have addressed a uniquely contemporary problem with Draconian methods--good old-fashioned intimidation combined with access to personal information that would make George Orwell blush."

Slashdot reports it goes even further as the RIAA subpeona's FAMILY MEMBERS of suspected file swappers!

And that 71 year old grandpa or that 12 year old little girl? Because they are being sued, they can't take advantage of the RIAAs new program of AMNESTY.

The RIAA does have the right. E-R gives them that. The livelihoods of not only oversexed, over boozed rock stars, but of song writers, engineers, and even studio musicians are in jeopardy. TECH TV has this quote today:

"Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation," RIAA president Cary Sherman said in a statement. "But when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action. We simply cannot allow online piracy to continue destroying the livelihoods of... everyone in the music industry."

That is certainly cause for concern. HOWEVER, the RIAA has long had the opportunity to see an emerging technology and use it to BOOST sales. Instead, they lazily relied on the "tried and true" and let illegal activity take the lead. Now, while pay per download services like APPLE iTUNES MUSIC STORE), VIRGIN, BUYMUSIC.COM and even Berltesman's soon to be newly reborn NAPSTER service will show record sales in legal downloads, the RIAA will makes examples of the weak and ignorant in order to make us play by their rules.

Sure, in the short term they'll get Jimmy's lemonade stand money, but in the long term - music sales will continue to plummet. Even UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP knows it as they have announced plans to LOWER prices in an effort to attract file swappers away from their computers and back into the music store. And that's a step. But they need to tell the RIAA to mellow out a bit in order for the new prices to attract attention.

If you want to send the RIAA a message, click on the following links and make your feelings known - in fact, DONATE TO THEM in the fight to send the message to the RIAA that their tactics are bad form:

Monday, September 08, 2003

EFF warns file sharers to not bite on latest RIAA offer just yet ...

PCWORLD has an article today which warns that if file sharers take the RIAAs offer for amnesty, they may still be held liable for the songs they've downloaded.

"Stepping into the spotlight to admit your guilt is probably not a sensible course for most people sharing music files online, especially since the RIAA doesn't control many potential sources of lawsuits," EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer said in the statement."