Internet

ICANN is now accepting applications for new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), which could quickly increase in number from the mere two-dozen or so existing gTLDs which presently include .com, .net, .org, and .biz.

Anti-piracy legislation in both the U.S. House (H.R. 3261, Stop Online Piracy Act, or “SOPA”) and Senate (S.968 PROTECT IP Act, or “PIPA”) has been abruptly halted following this past Wednesday’s worldwide online blackout protest involving numerous popular Internet sites, tweets, blogs, and the like (including WIKIPEDIA).  There has also been growing domestic concern over the potential extent of the federal government's reach in its effort to address rogue overseas websites.

Monday, 22 August 2011 21:20

STORM CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON?

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Several months ago, Amazon unveiled its “Cloud Drive” – a web application which permits users with Amazon accounts to upload up to five gigabytes of music, free of charge, to Amazon's server. Along with providing storage, the service also allows users to access, stream, and download their music from any location.  Given that Amazon is providing streaming access music, there is some questions as to whether Amazon’s decision to offer the service, without a license from music owners, may result in future legal disputes.  In this respect, Amazon has taken the position it is simply providing users with access to their own music files and, therefore, that no additional licenses are necessary.  In contrast to Amazon's approach, Apple has actively negotiated licenses with music publishers in anticipation of it's Fall 2011 launch of its "iCloud" service.   Music labels, for their part, are remaining silent on the issue as they wait to see how this “plays” out. 

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ICANN will soon publish the final version of its ‘Guidebook’ for the proposed expansion of generic top-level domains known as gTLDs, such as .com, .net, .org, and .biz. Compared with previous expansions, the new program could have a significant impact on Internet strategy for businesses, and perhaps substantial intellectual property implications.
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 21:00

GOOGLE DOES ART

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By this point, you may have already heard of the "Google Art Project": Google’s latest effort to increase universal access to the world’s information. The project, which was launched on February 1st, allows internet users to remotely access works of art in seventeen museums, including the MOMA and Frick Collection in New York, the Palace of Versailles, London's National Gallery, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The Project, which employs the same technology utilized in Google's "Street View" feature, allows individuals to virtually "walk" the halls of galleries and provides remarkably high-resolution reproductions that permit the inspection of individual brush strokes.
At first I was reluctant to write yet another blog entry on Facebook, but after noticing that more than fifty percent of my Facebook friends are complaining about the new privacy policy in their status I decided that non-Facebook users might want to know what all the cyber chatter is about. As you will recall, it was forecasted some months ago in Wired Magazine that Facebook would eventually harness its users’ information and offer the same to search engines. Following the article, Facebook changed its default privacy setting to allow advertisers to use their users’ pictures. The change resulted in many Facebook users logging in to alter the default setting. Now there are more changes to your Facebook default settings which the New York Times cleverly placed in a chart to make sense of the privacy mess. 
 
I took a few a minutes to change my default settings but according to Facebook I am in the minority. However given the length of the new policy, I think it’s safe to predict that sooner rather than later someone will challenge Facebook’s new policy and sue them for Copyright infringement and/or Right of Publicity. And while Facebook claims that users acquiesce to the policy by using the service, as the policy gets longer and more complicated, Facebook's ability to prove consent in court gets more and more difficult.
 
Till then I am, as Facebook put it when I changed the default setting, happy to decline the many benefits of the "New Facebook Experience."
If you were concerned about Facebook, wait until you hear about Unvarnished. Getunvarnished.com, which just launched in beta, has been described as a website wherein Yelp meets LinkedIn. 
 
The site with the tag “truth in reputation” allows users to create profiles and rate other users in the hopes of revealing the truth about the individual. However, the social networking site has been severely criticized for having little to no security controls. Specifically, the site only verifies a user’s identity through Facebook to insure that he/she is not a minor and then proves the user with carte blanche to create profiles and rate individuals anonymously. And since the purpose of the “reviews” is to reveal who an individual “really is” the user, who is being rated, is unable to delete and/or vote on negative posts about himself/herself.
 
Supporters of the site have said that the truth will bear out and that users can have their friends post positive comments that will offset any erroneous or negative comments. The co-founder of the site even insists that it will not turn into a burn book but rather an opportunity for people to see what others really think of them. Time will tell if Unvarnished becomes a useful social networking site or the perfect platform for defamation. Either way, the sites very existence continues to expand the private/public distinction and limits the scope of personal privacy.  Not surprisingly, like Facebook, My Space, Twitter and Yelp it is one more site that may require legal monitoring.
This week Yelp! Inc. the online review site was served with a class action lawsuit in California for Violations of California’s Unfair Competition Statute. The complaint filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that that Yelp! manipulates reviews, which have a direct impact on business ratings, and then offers to remove them if the business purchases a monthly advertising subscription. The Plaintiff, Cats and Dogs Corp, provides veterinary services in Long Beach California and claims that it was extorted by Yelp!
 
Yelp!, a San Francisco based operation which was founded in 2004, recently walked away from Google’s $550 million dollar offer to purchase.  These allegations however strike to the heart of Yelp! Business model which claims to provide “real people and real reviews.”  To date, Yelp's response to the complaint has been a statement denying the allegations.
Sunday, 12 December 2010 19:17

WARNER MUSIC: A LONE ISLAND IN THE STREAM

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Warner Music Group has announced that it will stop licensing its music to streaming services – such as Last.fm and Pandora -- that provide consumers with free, instant, and legal access to millions of songs. Generally speaking, music streaming services function like radio stations – with some, like Pandora, designed to 'guess' the musical tastes of a specific consumer and tailor suggestions based on these findings. Such services, therefore, provide new artists --and even musical genres -- with exposure to new consumers.  Nevertheless, while streaming services do pay royalties for each song played the royalties are significantly less than those a company such as Warner will earn through paid downloads.  Moreover, while some consumers may go on to purchase digital copies of favorite songs, it's unclear what proportion are simply free-riding on these service.

Warner, therefore, has come to the conclusion that "free streaming services are clearly not positive for the industry" and decided to focus on providing digital access to music by way of paid subscription services.   However, Warner’s decision to focus on paid subscription services – none of which have yet to prove popular among consumers – has been criticized as short-sighted and oblivious to the desires of consumers that have become accustomed to free and subsidized music services.  In this new landscape, many believe that any service stopping short of full-on piracy should be viewed as a positive by music labels.  This view appears to be held by several major industry players such as the senior VP of Universal Music Group who has gone on record as stating that such free services provide “a very sustainable financial model.”

It remains to be seen whether Warner’s move – which will cut access to popular artists such as REM and Muse – will negatively affect the future of music streaming services. However, as noted by the head of UK’s Music Manager’s Forum, what is clear is that “anything that's going backwards is denying where the world's going.”

As some of you may know, Facebook changed its privacy settings on Wednesday, December 16, 2009. However, the new “easy to use settings wizard” has not be well received. Among one of the issues, is that as a result of the change a user who did not adjust his/her privacy settings has been publishing his/her status updates and photos to the entire internet as of Wednesday. And while Facebook claims that only forty percent of its 220 million users have opted for their old privacy setting while the rest have embraced the change, critics argue that the settings wizard distorts the facts and that many users are not even aware of the true implications of the switch. Many critics have gone on to add that the change is really a deliberate attempt by Facebook to compete with other micro-publishing sites like Twitter who have capitalized on the public aspect of social networking sites.
 
So it came as no surprise this morning when the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a coalition of privacy groups, asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Facebook’s recent privacy changes and how the social networking site treats customer data which they claim is in violation of federal consumer protection laws.  The FTC has yet to comment on if and when it will investigate.
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