Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Pirates Can't Be Stopped in Portfolio

Daniel Roth's excellent piece "The Pirates Can't be Stopped" in Portfolio. He also discussed the story on NPR's On the Radio (full transcript.

Yet it has been difficult to quantify the damage supposedly wreaked by downloading. In mid-2007, economists Felix Oberholzer-Gee, from Harvard, and Koleman Strumpf, from the University of Kansas, published the results of their study analyzing the effect of file sharing on retail music sales in the U.S. They found no correlation between the two. "While downloads occur on a vast scale," they wrote, "most users are likely individuals who in the absence of file sharing would not have bought the music they downloaded." Another study published around the same time, however, found there was, in fact, a positive impact on retail sales, at least in Canada: University of London researchers Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz reported that the more people downloaded songs from P2P networks, the more CDs they bought [READ FULL REPORT]. "Roughly half of all P2P tracks were downloaded because individuals wanted to hear songs before buying them or because they wanted to avoid purchasing the whole bundle of songs on the associated CDs, and roughly one-quarter were downloaded because they were not available for purchase."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Samizdat, Magnitizdat and how individuals overcame state censorship with private copies

A Book review from the New York Times, March 24, 1985


Published: March 24, 1985


The Private War Against Soviet Censorship. By Donald R. Shanor. 179 pp. New York: St. Martin's Press. $13.95.

FACED with a revolution in technology that is rapidly transforming the industrialized world, the leaders of the Soviet Union are in a quandary. If they openly embrace the new technology, the horizons of Soviet citizens may expand far beyond the limits set by official censorship. But if they close their doors to new discoveries, they may soon lose their place among the advanced nations of the world. Soviet rulers, early on, sacrificed the freedom of their people at the altar of industrial progress; now they are afraid to loosen the bonds, even at the expense of scientific advancement.

This fascinating dilemma is an underlying theme in Donald R. Shanor's ''Behind the Lines: The Private War Against Soviet Censorship.'' Using interviews with more than 150 present and former Soviet citizens, Mr. Shanor, a professor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, investigates the ways in which censorship is circumvented in Russia. He also explains how Soviet public opinion is expressed and examines the programming of United States radio stations broadcasting to the Soviet Union. But it is his description of the resourcefulness of ''the underground telegraph'' that is most intriguing.

Mr. Shanor points out that the samizdat literature of the dissidents is but a small part of an underground information network that probably includes the vast majority of Soviet citizens - people who are not dissidents but simply want to know the truth about what is going on around them. They carefully read between the lines of the official press and eagerly circulate news gleaned from relatives abroad. They listen regularly to foreign radio broadcasts and to audio and video cassettes smuggled from the West. Music, politics, drama - every subject is of interest. For those living under Soviet rule, information is the coin of the realm.

Recent reports indicate that the Soviet Union is now negotiating to buy large numbers of Western-made personal computers, but it is not clear how such computers will be used. The Russians have as yet no organized program to develop computer literacy among the young. They seem more concerned with maintaining their centralized control over communications. And so vast sums of money are spent on technology used to jam Western broadcasts. Copying machines are kept under lock and key, the production of video recorders has been halted, and direct telephone dialing abroad came to an end soon after the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Despite these controls, audio tape recorders have become a staple in Russian homes, and there are now more than 168 million radios and 100 million television sets out of a populaton (in 1980) of about 267 million. While Soviet censors busy themselves tracking down samizdat authors by the typeface on their typewriters, ordinary citizens are planning picnics out of town, beyond the range of the jammers, where they tape-record Western broadcasts on shortwave radios that they have rewired themselves. Finnish television programs are picked up in Estonia, ''the unofficial video recording center of the U.S.S.R.,'' where they are recorded on video cassettes and then distributed throughout the country, sometimes with Russian-language voice-overs. Magnitizdat (tape publishing) is taking its place alongside samizdat .

The future holds new problems for Soviet censors, as foreign companies compete to develop smaller, cheaper and more efficient products - word processors and personal computers with printout capabilities; tiny wireless radios and televisions, powerful enough to pick up international transmissions; cordless telephones no larger than a wristwatch that can be dialed directly to receivers abroad.

Mr. Shanor believes that in the long run the Soviet Union will be unable to control the private use of the new technology. Let us hope he is right. His is an optimistic view, one that foresees a better informed Soviet public demanding more openness from a new generation of Soviet leaders and holding them accountable for their actions.B

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A report on MySpace profile pic used in news stories

From Photo District News

March 13, 2008

By Daryl Lang

When a prostitute hired by former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was identified Wednesday, news outlets eagerly published photos grabbed from her MySpace profile.

Can they get away with that?

Three attorneys who specialize in copyright law say media organizations are sailing in dangerous waters if they publish a personal snapshot without permission.

"Whoever took that picture owns that picture," says New York attorney Nancy Wolff. "It's either an infringement or they [the news outlets] have to make a fair use argument."

Wolff says the news organizations probably decided the risk of a lawsuit was low. They also probably considered competitive pressure as other sources published the same photos. "It's a fast business decision," Wolff says.

The fair use argument would be a thin one, attorneys say. Fair use cases consider factors such as whether the image has been transformed and whether publishing the image displaces the market for the image, according to New York attorney Joel Hecker.

In this case, Hecker says, the image was not transformed and it diminishes the market for the image rights.

"If these are the only images available, they might go for thousands and thousands of dollars on licensing," Hecker says. "I think the probability would be that this would not fall under fair use."

Hecker says he would advise a photographer in this situation to contact news agencies and negotiate a fee, and if that fails, to sue.

Another New York attorney, Edward Greenberg, who has handled several recent cases involving media outlets that ran unlicensed images, says one consideration is whether the photographer has registered the images with the copyright office*, or does so within 90 days of publication.

"Some infringers will intentionally infringe and wait for a letter from a photographer, and there's a 95 percent chance they'll never get one," Greenberg adds.

The New York Times appears to be the only news outlet to speak to the woman previously known only as "Kristen." The newspaper identified her as Ashley Youmans and said she goes by the name Ashley Alexandra Dupré on her MySpace page.

The Times published three images of Youmans on its Web site Wednesday, crediting them to Two of the images also appeared in the print newspaper Thursday. Times assistant managing editor for photography Michele McNally declined to comment on whether the paper obtained permission before publishing the photographs.

Other outlets, including TV networks and the Associated Press and Reuters wire services, have also run some of the photos, crediting MySpace.

The AP noted that the images were "obtained from a MySpace webpage" and specified that they were to be used, "only to illustrate news reporting or commentary on the facts or events surrounding the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal." Reuters identified the images similarly, and flagged them as available only for editorial use.

Associated Press director of photography Santiago Lyon says AP consulted with its legal department before deciding to use the photos.

"Given the news value of the photographs, we decided that these were images that the public needed to see," Lyon says.

MySpace's Terms & Conditions page states that "MySpace does not claim any ownership rights" over the photos users post on the site. It says MySpace has the right to display user content within MySpace, but "This limited license does not grant MySpace the right to sell or otherwise distribute your Content outside of the MySpace Services."

The photos remained on Youmans's MySpace profile Thursday morning, but had been taken down by Thursday afternoon.

*Copyright does not require registration but creators do have an opportunity to register their copyright if they so choose. See copyright office basics: