Competition / anti-trust issues.

Very Little for Independent Cultural Workers in Federal Budget

When I watched the budget speech I was thinking that it was frustrating that the incumbent manufacturing sector was receiving various tax incentives, rather than pushing those incentives towards independent knowledge workers which will increasingly be where job growth is seen as we progress out of the industrial economy.

While not worded that way (they focused only on cultural workers, with some of their members using industrial production methods), PWAC noticed this type of problem as well in their press release.

When Information Production Meets the Computer Network

Last week I wrote an article trying to make sense out of the music industry, and a recent copyright board decision. In Montreal the conversation of music came up at the FACIL event, and I explained how I see the decline of the revenue and influence of the recording industry not as a threat to the interests of musicians, but as something positive that will benefit composers and performers both financially and otherwise. I truly believe we are in a market transition where industrial methods of production, distribution and funding of creativity will be de-emphasized in favour of alternative methods.

I am currently reading Yochai Benkler's book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, and I thought it might be interesting to offer his summary of the issue.

Microsoft Attacks All Innovators, Not Just Google

This take on the Microsoft political attacks against their competitors (In this case, Google) by EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann gets at one of the critical issues often missing.

There is something more important here than just the latest spat between these industry titans: the proper relationship between copyright and innovation. In these screeds against Google, Microsoft comes out in favor of "collaboration" -- in other words, asking permission of affected copyright owners before innovating. It attacks Google for "unilateralism" -- in other words, innovating without asking permission first.

Canadians Need to Strike Back in Fight Against Fraud -- Fraud: Recognize It. Report It. Stop It.

A press release from the Competition Bureau:

OTTAWA, March 1, 2007 -- Canadians need to be more vigilant in the fight against fraud, senior law enforcement and government officials are warning.

Perspective: Why the tech industry still can't get its way

A CNet article by Charles Cooper discusses how the technology industry is doing when it relates to the intersection of politics and technology.

Each week, it seems, brings fresh evidence of the increasing intersection between the worlds of high technology and politics. Yet it's also clear that the tech business sector commands less influence with our political class than its size might suggest.

US lobbiests, including the US government, continues to attack Canada..

Canadians should know the pressure that US special interest groups, including US government agencies like the USPTO and USTR, are exerting against Canada. A recent CBC arts article included:

A powerful coalition of U.S. software, movie and music producers wants the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to put Canada on a blacklist of intellectual property villains.

Michael Geist has blogged on this issue, saying that Canada is in Good Company with other countries who have more balanced laws (balanced between the desires of big media companies and the rights of creators/citizens). Howard Knopf has also written on the issue.

If not for the fact that the USA is the author of this list, the USA would be on the list itself as its lobbiests are asking for worse laws to be enacted worldwide than the USA has itself.

It is important to realize that what is wanted is not better protection for the rights of Canadian or foreign creators, but protectionism for specialized business models where US corporations dominate. The war they are waging isn't against infringement, but competition.

Apple DRM is illegal in Norway, says Ombudsman

OUT-LAW News has a story about a recent case involving Apples DRM which ties the legal purchase of music from the iTunes music store to the iPod device.

Apple's digital rights management lock on its iPod device and iTunes software is illegal, the Consumer Ombudsman in Norway has ruled. The blow follows the news that consumer groups in Germany and France are joining Norway's action against Apple.
"It doesn't get any clearer than this. Fairplay is an illegal lock-in technology whose main purpose is to lock the consumers to the total package provided by Apple by blocking interoperability," Waterhouse told OUT-LAW.COM. "For all practical purposes this means that iTunes Music Store is trying to kill off one the most important building blocks in a well functioning digital society, interoperability, in order to boost its own profits."

Music Fans: Dismantle DRM

A BusinessWeek article by Catherine Holahan includes:

Some DRM opponents have begun arguing that DRM restrictions are actually fueling piracy by forcing users to choose between buying music that they will only be able to play on a limited number of compatible devices or stealing music that they can play anywhere. "Right now the fact is that pirated music and pirated movies are actually worth more than the movies and music you buy," says Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group. "I can't think of another product that is actually worth more stolen than if you purchased it."

Government issues another blow to competition

An article from the Canadian Association of VoIP Providers includes:

One is left to wonder how the government can rationalize its policies as being "good for the consumer" while incumbents are exclaiming "we got everything we asked for" on Report on Business TV. Why does Industry Minister Maxime Bernier, having no experience in telecom policy and with zero telecommunications experience, feel he is better qualified to make policy than CRTC staff, board members and industry participants who have decades of experience?

Bernier often claims he wants to leave decisions to market forces, failing to realize that where existing monopolies or excessively strong incumbents exist that "market forces" will fail to achieve public policy goals. The government needs to first clean up existing (government created) monopolies in the telecom sector and allow for fair competition before considering the level of deregulation that Bernier blindly advocates.

As Microsoft looks ahead, will Vista be the end of an era?

A UK Times article by Rhys Blakely talks about Vista which he suggests that "Microsoft executives admit will be the last of its kind, as their company finally gets to grips with the internet age."

I think there is more to this story than Mr. Blakely spoke about. I think the ability of any single company to coordinate something as complex as a modern operating system (whether it be Vista, MacOS-X, Linux or any other) has peaked, and the companies that will survive are those that better collaborate.

I really believe that the hardest transition for Microsoft will not relate to competition with their cash cows of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, but the growing competition to the legacy royalty-based business models for infrastructure and productivity software. The growth of "open collaborative models for the production of public goods", "peer production", "peer distribution", and other social and economic language used to describe Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) will prove to be the most important advancement. Businesses need to learn how to fund and make money off of software from fixed costs, allowing the free market to bring the marginal costs to customers be equal to the marginal costs to producers of software -- which is zero.

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