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Friday, April 01, 2005

P2P & new copyright thinking

Hip-hop is a great example of music that's *so* Digital Age, the Christian Science Monitor points out in a thorough think piece on all Net-based music's shades of gray. "The Internet hasn't only made copying easy, it also has helped foster a culture in which some artists create new work by literally reusing or remixing the work of others. Hip-hop music, built on the idea of 'sampling' the beats or sounds of earlier music, is the most obvious of several examples," the Monitor reports. It creatively pulls together "found [musical] objects of other cultural products," it quotes one expert as saying. Which seems to require a new approach to copyright - the reason why there's so much controversy and litigation over traditional copyright models. Some companies are finding some middle ground, for example, That was John Buckman's idea in 2003 when he founded - "an independent record label that sells music through online downloads and CDs and also licenses music for both commercial and noncommercial use," according to the monitor. Its business plan: "Let people listen to the music all they want for free over the Internet. If they like an album so much they want to own it, they can pay a range of prices from $5 to $18 per album, which they can choose." Most customers pay $8.20/album on average. Half goes to the musician (much more than conventional record labels pay.

Hotline help for UK parents

Yesterday I was at a Childnet International conference in Jamaica, during which a dad from the UK asked if there was anyone a parent could call in his country to get help if a child was at risk online - local police didn't seem to be able to help. Though the answer was pretty much "no" yesterday, a BBC report today indicates that it'll be "yes" within a year. "A unit to protect children in the UK from Internet paedophiles is being set up by the Home Office," according to the BBC. To be called the Centre for Child Protection on the Internet, its staff of about 100 people from law enforcement and child welfare will be open 24 hours a day. "The centre will take on work being done by the National Crime Squad and will target those who distribute child porn images or 'groom' children for abuse. It sound as if it will function similarly to at the US's National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and in Canada - remarkable services I hope parents in all countries will have access to someday.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

US high court looks at P2P

Judging by the media coverage, the Supreme Court justices know a lot more about file-sharing than the average American parent. As they listened to arguments in the landmark MGM vs. Grokster case yesterday, they peppered both sides with questions about "deep house mashups" (I think this means grabbing tracks from various songs and mashing them up to compose something new with sound-editing software), reports. They were looking at whether the P2P networks were a "gigantic [copyright] infringement machine" and should be outlawed as such, as Hollywood argues, or whether - like photocopiers - they could indeed be used for infringement, but that fact alone "would not have allowed book publishers to sue Xerox for violating the copyright laws," as was ruled in the '70s, the Los Angeles Times reports. The placards of little protest groups circling outside the Supreme Court yesterday said a lot: One sign read, "Feed a Musician: Download Legally." Signs for the other side said, "Fight for the Right to Innovate" and "Hands Off My IPOD." Here's CNET's coverage. The Court's decision is expected in June.

AOL's new blog service for teens

I'm wondering why someone hasn't come up with this before - maybe because blogging's phenomenal growth among teenagers took us all by surprise. Anyway, AOL just unveiled its new "RED Blogs" (parts of its "RED" for teens). Even though teenagers often reveal their most intimate thoughts in blogs, they're smart, AOL's research found: 84% of them "said they would not like to share their blog with just anyone on the Web," CNET reports. RED blogs "allows teenagers and parents to select the level of privacy they want for their online diaries; a private blog can be kept locked. A semiprivate blog is locked to all but those who are invited to read it. And a public blog allows access to anybody on the Net." Another interesting factoid: "When AOL asked teenagers in a survey who they were more likely to share their feelings with--parents or a blog - parents narrowly won out, 51% to 49%." For the latest on teens 'n' blogs, see "Parents'-eye-view of blogging kids" and "A dad on kids' blogs."

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Desktop search tools compared

A gaggle of search engines compete with Google now to help you search for that elusive email message you just *know* you didn't delete. Some are well-known, such as "Ask Jeeves, Google and Yahoo, reports Washington Post tech writer Rob Pegoraro. "Some are small, obscure developers - Copernic and Blinkx. One's a division of Microsoft itself, its MSN Internet service." All six browser add-ons are free and can search your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents and audio and image files, and all but Ask can search PDF files and Outlook Express email, Rob writes. "But if you use a non-Microsoft mail program, only Blinkx and Google welcome you: The former works with Eudora, the latter with Netscape, Mozilla and Thunderbird. Thanks, Rob - it's great to have these little apps compared. I don't use desktop search a *whole* lot, but when I do I'm glad I have one of these add-ons - it makes searching my computer so much easier. In fact, it just makes it possible in most cases!

Why do teens blog?

For some it's a kind of therapy, the Baltimore Sun reports in a thorough look at the state of teen blogging today. It cites the view of one psychology professor that "blogs may have become popular vehicles of self-expression for the same reasons that some people prefer undergoing therapy via computer: They can have intimate exchanges without being face to face." One 17-year-old cited says it's cleansing to put "love-hate" lists in her blog. Then there's the adolescent "quest for attention," which causes bloggers to exaggerate their moodes and feelings in their online journals. The Sun also looks at whether parents check their kids' blogs. Some do, some don't, the latter from either "lack of vigilance" to a concern about privacy. The latter just doesn't make sense, though, when journal entries are typed before an international public audience! Lots of interesting anecdotes in this article about how teens and parents are handling this new phenomenon in their lives.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Cellphones: Getting 'bluejacked'

I can see US teen cellphone users jumping on this one. The New York Times calls it "bluejacking," and I've seen it called "toothing" in the UK media, but The Register reports all the coverage grew out of a little hoax. It seems not to be in the US, however, though still at the early-adopter stage. And you can bet that the adopters are young. What I'm talking about is a new way of flirting (or pulling pranks) with text on cellphones - "the act of sending random strangers unsolicited messages using Bluetooth, the radio-based technology standard in many cellphones and palmtops that enables people to swap digital business cards and photographs," according to the Times. The message is composed as a digital business card file and sent as such (a message like "SittingNearU" or "Hello stranger" goes in the name field and so on). But market size limits the fad in the US so far: The Times cites Gartner Group figures showing that, whereas 39% of phones sold in Europe last year were Bluetooth-equipped, only 4% in the US are. There are Web sites already, though: e.g., and It's mostly fun, but it's also certain that kids with bluetooth-enabled phones will be bluejacked by strangers.