Competition / anti-trust issues.

The End of (Radio) Days?

An article by Rob Hyndman talks about the future, or lack of a future, that traditional commercial radio has. I am yet another example of someone who previously listened to radio, but currently do not have the time. I sometimes listen to specific CBC shows, but even though I listen to more audio today than I did 5 years ago, it is all in the form of MP3 files downloaded (legally!) from the Internet.

What I listen to are audio blogs such as Cory Doctorow's Podcast, 2600 Magazine's Off the Wall and Off the Hook, Lulabot Drupal Podcast, The Parliament Hillbillies in Ottawa, and others.

Conflicting Data? Further discussions of Pollara's ideological re-interpretation of their own "polling"

This Stereophile article by Wes Phillips includes:

The concluding paragraph of McKie's "Research Analysis" states that the music industry's decline is solidly tied to the rise of downloading: "It is now considered almost common knowledge that this relationship exists, except among diehards and others whose contrary views imply a desire to protect what is increasingly considered an illegal and damaging practice." This is interesting, since I had assumed that the objective of the survey (at least as expressed on its page labeled "Objective") was "to provide objective, empirical research" rather than to parrot what is "almost considered common knowledge."

There is a large amount of unfounded ideologically blinded insults from Pollara. As an author of software and non-software literary works who makes my living through my creativity, it is both trivially false and insulting to suggest that the reason why I disagree with their bogus statistics is because I have a "desire to protect ... an illegal and damaging practice". The reality is that I have a desire to protect new creators and innovators from the stifling market control of incumbents, with the excessive protection of the incumbents against competitors being something I consider "an illegal and damaging practice".

Canada's Telecom Policy Review: The Rest of the Story

Coverage of the release last week of Canada's telecommunications policy review centered primarily on the call for a new regulatory approach that emphasizes market independence over government interference combined with a slimmed-down CRTC and list of policy priorities. Michael Geist's weekly Law Bytes column focuses on the rest of the story as the report identified a series of important areas – including network neutrality, ubiquitous broadband access, privacy, spam, and consumer protection - that merit government intervention or support. Toronto Star, Michael's BLOG

Comparing apples-to-toasters: how big is the FLOSS marketplace?

(Also published on p2pnet)

I was reading an interview that gave of Novell CEO Jack Messman which spoke about their ongoing migration to the FLOSS marketplace. It made me think about the transformative changes happening in the larger software marketplace.

One of the statistics that people like to hear about with FLOSS is the size of the marketplace, seeking to compare it with the incumbent "software manufacturing" marketplace (sometimes called "proprietary software"). The problem is, while it is easy for our "software manufacturing" competitors to count boxes and claim that the retail channel is also part of their value-add (See the "piracy statistics" that claim declines in the legacy distribution channels are also a cost of their aleged "infringement"). They are counting how much "money making" that the vendors and distributors are doing, and ignore the larger marketplace that includes the users of that software.

Telecom Panel report gets mixed reaction from CIPPIC

NEWS RELEASE: 22 March 2006, Ottawa, ON

Telecom Panel report gets mixed reaction from CIPPIC

A three-person panel appointed by the Minister of Industry released its report today, recommending large-scale deregulation of the telecommunications market. The Panel recommended that regulations be retained only where market forces cannot achieve policy goals within a reasonable time, and where the benefits of such regulation outweigh the costs. It also proposed a number of new initiatives, including a comprehensive federal program to deploy broadband service in all remaining unserved areas of the country, and a new Telecommunications Consumer Agency to resolve consumer complaints against telecom service providers.

Apple calls interoperability and competition 'state-sponsored piracy'

I hope people are watching this story closely. France just passed a draconian law that gives circumventing technical measures a very high penalty. Along with this they are demanding a tiny level of interoperability, something consistent with the 1991 European directive on the legal protection of computer programs (91/250/EEC). This directive did not offer copyright on interfaces, and specifically allowed reverse engineering. The preamble also explained the importance of interoperability in computing, concepts largely reneged on with directive 2001/29/EC "on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society" which implements the anti-competitive 1996 WIPO treaties. It is simply not possible to protect both interoperability/competition and technical measures which presume the owner of the device is the attacker, as they are opposing concepts.

Apple is claiming (See CNET article by Elinor Mills) that this is "state sponsored piracy". Interoperability and free market competition is "piracy"? Time to use what little market influence we have and boycott Apple, putting them into the same category of out-of-touch extremists as the RIAA, MPAA, etc.

File sharing is an asset, not a problem

The Ottawa Citizen (March 18, 2006, pg B7), Vancouver Sun (March 22, 2006, pg A17) and The Windsor Star published an article by Tom Flanagan and Gemma Collins. Mr. Flanagan is a professor and Ms. Collins is a graduate student in the department of political science at the University of Calgary. Mr Flanigan also has close ties with the Conservative party.

The article focused on the differences between Lockean real property and "intellectual property", as well as the confusing (and not well understood/documented) "making available" right included in the 1996 WIPO treaties, mentioned in the 2004 filesharing case (BMG vs Doe), and included in Bill C-60.

Circumventing Competition: The Perverse Consequences of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The CATO Institute has released a new study that concludes that the DMCA hinders innovation. The study expresses deep concern with the government interference into digital rights management techniques.

CATO's motto seems to be "individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace", suggesting that people who have Conservative MPs should be informing their MP about this study as it will fairly closely align with the values of the Conservative government.

A very important quote from the document, page 8:

To be effective, a DRM scheme must prevent unauthorized devices from "interoperating" with it. Because unauthorized devices are not bound to enforce the rules of the DRM system, the designers of a DRM system cannot afford to allow them access to protected content. By definition, then, any product that achieves interoperability against the wishes of the creator of another product is "circumventing" the DRM scheme.

It discusses this in the context of exceptions to anti-circumvention rules for the purpose of "identifying and analysing those elements of [a] program that are necessary to achieve interoperability", noting that the opposing goals of interoperability and DRM cannot be reconciled.

A tale of two competitions...

I have a theory when it comes to what is happening in France, and I am looking for feedback.

In the pay-per-download music marketplace there are really only a few groups of competitors: Apples "FairPlay", sites using the Microsoft DRM (Puretracks, Napster, etc, etc), sites using RealNetworks or other obscure DRM, and DRM-free files. The bill makes clear that compatibility with DRM-free files will not be offered, since converting to a DRM-free file has excessive penalties.

Apple dominates this market, and Microsoft is not happy with this. Microsoft and their dependants (The major labels seem to be in this camp) have been lobbying hard to make Apples FairPlay compatible with Microsoft's DRM. The government and these lobbiests can't be honest and name Microsoft, so they claim to be trying to make all DRM compatible, even if there are really only two competitors worthy of mention.

Pushing a rope in France?

I have to admit that I'm confused by recent bills passed by France. On one hand they have increased the penalties for circumventing technical measures (ab)used by copyright holders, which are predominantly used to tie the unlocking of encrypted content with specific brands of access technology which contain the vendor-dependant keys. On the other hand they are claiming they want to "open up" this DRM so that there is interoperability.

Will this DRM be "opened up" so that it can be implemented by FLOSS? Any technology that is implemented in FLOSS must allow the owner of the device to "run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software", meaning that the owner of the device has their rights to be in control of what they own protected. Any technology that assumes that the owner is the attacker, which represents most DRM, is fundamentally incompatible with FLOSS and the concept of interoperability.

My only guess is that the French parliament doesn't understand these issues well enough to realize that they are trying to "push a rope", and that what they are doing will create massive uncertainty and will fail at whatever goals they have set.

See: The Register: France votes for DRM interop

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