Competition / anti-trust issues.

India At The Forefront Of Knowledge Commons Debate

An article by Frederick Noronha includes:

NEW DELHI - What do seeds have in common with software? Or age-old medicines with copyright lawyers? And, what’s the link between ayurvedic medicines and techies talking free software in Bangalore?

I first read this article on the same weekend that I was visiting a family friend. My in-laws were born in India, and many of our family friends were also born in India with their children born and growing up here.

We were talking about educational systems. I was expressing my view that I worry about North America as we are moving to a knowledge economy and yet our educational system and most knowledge-based businesses are stuck in the industrial era. I spoke about the global economic inefficiencies involved in industrial-era "marginal cost" (royalty/etc) based business models. I also spoke about the competitive environment in classrooms in India and how children there are learning advanced topics much earlier than their Western counterparts.

Publishing, not perishing: How media, small and large, competes openly for eyeballs online

An article by Shane Schick has some great insights into the changes he sees with media with the growth of the Internet.

Good bloggers and good wiki contributors help make choices about content that has value, especially for readers who don’t have the time to choose on their own. Perhaps I’m optimistic, but I don’t see a reduction in options to readers through the Internet anytime soon.

I'm just doing my bit as editor, suggesting this article by Shane which anyone who shares my interests will likely also find interesting. Even when bloggers are only offering media monitoring services, I believe it is important value-add. I don't read articles, online or offline, that I'm not pointed to online by a trusted "virtual editor".

"I cannot believe the future of music is giving it away"

Those are the words of Graham Henderson, the president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, as quoted in a The Chronicle Herald article by Patricia Launt. Whether Mr. Henderson believes it or not, the authorized sharing of knowledge is the future.

The economics are simple: Knowledge has a marginal cost (The cost per additional unit) of production to the author of zero, and with modern communications tools the marginal cost of distribution is nearing zero as well. People who make a living in the knowledge economy have a choice: they can use older business models which focus on the collecting and policing the collection of an artificial marginal cost charged to the consumer, or they can find ways to find their one-time up-front costs and allow the marginal cost charged to the consumer to be zero.

Norwegian watchdog scrutinizes iTunes DRM

An article by Jo Best, special to CNET includes:

Torgeir Waterhouse, senior adviser at Norway's consumer council, refuted the idea. "It's very difficult to see how locking consumers into the iPod is preserving the rights of any given artist...It's just not replying to (the complaint). Apple is trying to 'smoke screen' it away," he said.

What Apple is doing is describing what DRM is intended to be: encoding content such that it can only be played on "authorized players", with the only authorized players being those where the manufacturer retains control and where the owner of the device is considered the attacker of that device.

Apple responds to Nordic criticism

An article by Nancy Gohring in PC Advisor includes:

Apple has replied to criticism of its iTunes DRM (digital rights management) policy, meeting a deadline set by consumer agencies in Scandinavia, an advisor at Norway's Consumer Council said today.
The Nordic countries aren't alone in making complaints about the way the iTunes store works.

France has recently passed a law that may require Apple to license its DRM technology so that other companies can build music players that can play songs purchased in the iTunes music store. In the UK, the British Phonographic Institute called on Apple to allow iTunes songs to be played on any player.

Whose hardware is it anyway?

The following was posted to my BLOG on CLUE. It was also published by p2pnet.

With the recent launch of the Petition to protect Information Technology property rights at the Ottawa Linux Symposium (French translation in progress), we now move to the harder stage of explaining the petition not only to those who we want to sign it, but those whose activities we wish to influence. It is not only politicians who must help protect our property rights, but also software authors who we want to discourage from working with monopolies in the hardware manufacturing and content industries to circumvent our property rights.

Tim Lee: Against Platform Monopoly

Tim Lee, an editor at the Show-Me Institute, and contributor to Tech Liberation, has been writing a number of articles opposing platform monopolies, or "the merits of giving companies legal rights to control access to the technological devices they control".

DMCA excluded from storage tape repair case

It is interesting to note that the anti-competitive nature of anti-circumvention legislation is slowly being understood even in US courts. An article in The Register by John Leyden discusses one of the recent cases.

Federal Judge Rya Zobel of Massachusetts ruled (PDF) late last month that StorageTek's GetKey security failed to "effectively control access" to the system, invalidating claims that Custom Hardware might have invalidated the DMCA, and reversing his earlier January 2003 decision.

Linux Australia has a petition to "Ban Piracy, Not Competition"

I have been collecting signatures to the Petition to protect Information Technology property rights at the Ottawa Linux Symposium. Separate from this I received a message from someone in Australia doing similar work with Linux Australia, who also have a petition to their parliament documented as part of their legal issues. The focus on the petition is to tie anti-circumvention provisions to actual infringement, something that was contained in Bill C-60 in Canada. The concept is to "Ban Piracy, Not Competition", although I see no way to accomplish this while at the same time disallowing the owner of IT from choosing whatever software they wish to run on their hardware, and still be able to access any content they have purchased.

Their information lists Rusty Russell as the IP Policy Advisor for Linux Australia, and I hope to bump into Rusty at the conference.

Wired: The Rise and Fall of the Hit

A Wired article by Chris Anderson in their July 2006 issue includes a discussion of the "long tail" and the belief that "The era of the blockbuster is so over. The niche is now king, and the entertainment industry – from music to movies to TV – will never be the same".

This will hopefully spell the end of the dominance of the major labels and major studios, paving the way for a more vibrant and competitive marketplace for entertainment. In my case I've always believed that what is good for the incumbent monopolists is bad for the industry as a whole, whether that industry is entertainment or any other marketplace.

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