Following Up for the Week Ending 8/25/2010

Security Alerts for the Week Ending 7/11/2010

feeds | grep links > Ubuntu on a NexusOne, Google’s New System for Infringing Music, Possibilities for Scalable Quantum Computers, and More

  • Installing Ubuntu on a Nexus One
    Make has a video of the installation process from NexusOneHacks.net, document and demonstrated over the long weekend. It isn’t that much of a stretch as Android, the phone’s default OS, already uses a Linux kernel, just an entirely different stack on top of it. Mm, I could definitely see Ubuntu’s forthcoming Unity interface for netbooks running well on a smartphone.
  • Google’s potential new system for avoiding takedowns for infringing music copyrights
    According to Slashdot, the novel aspect of this patent application isn’t identifying potentially infringing music in YouTube videos, but a set of actions from which an uploader may be able to choose: remove the video, swap the soundtrack for something approved, or to mute the video. As the post notes, there is no allowance for use with permissions. Once again, there is also no room for no action, relying on fair use. If implemented, this rely isn’t much better than the filtering system in place now.
  • New fabrication technique could lead to scalable quantum computers
    The key, as Technology Review explains, is inducing nitrogen vacancies within a diamond crystal. The vacancies can be made to luminesce so the implication is they could be used to stored and emit photons, which have been used in other quantum computing rigs. The research hasn’t advanced that far, it really is more about the fabrication technique but the potential is fascinating.
  • Blizzard to require real names to post on its forums

Viacom’s Side of the Public Filing

Fred von Lohmann at EFF has a thoughful analysis of Viacom’s stance as revealed by the public filings in their suit against YouTube. As he explains, my interpretation of their actions as rent seeking may not have been nuanced enough. Viacom admits that once YouTube implemented its Content ID system for automatically filtering out copyrighted material, their concerns with the video sharing service ended. The basis of the suit is the years prior, perhaps even some knowing inducement under that earlier management.

Fred’s take is also consistent with the increasing push to restrict the DMCA safe harbor further. It is well worth a read for that aspect alone. The safe harbor is the sole limit to have evolved out of the new rights granted under the DMCA. The potential impact on ISPs and future innovators cannot be understated if Viacom has its way. If appealed far enough, this case could have as far reaching effects, for good or ill, as the Sony and Grokster cases.

YouTube Criticizes Viacom for Worst Kind of Rent Seeking

The filings in the gargantuan lawsuit Viacom has leveled against YouTube are now public, according to Ars Technica and other sources. In their wake, Google has posted an incredible series of accusations on its YouTube blog, culminating in this:

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.

In the rest of the post, Zahavah Levine, YouTube Chief Counsel argues, persuasively, that the DMCA takedown regime should be enough to satisfy any rights holders, no matter how large. He also contends that Viacom’s lawsuit is largely baseless as they did far more to make the job of tracking what material was and was not authorized impossible than anyone at YouTube or any of the users who may have posted unlicensed video clips.

What appalls me the most is that it is pretty clear that Viacom wants it both ways. I’ve heard enough anecdotes from a wide variety of sources to credit Levine’s claims that executives at Viacom were happy to extract value in terms of driving up viewership through viral videos. Apparently, they were not happy enough to profit in the same way as mere makers of cute cat and precocious baby videos. They want to extract rents, I have to imagine some pretty exorbitant rents, on top of this less fungible value.

The worst irony is that their rent seeking behavior will destroy the very underlying non-monetary value that makes any prospect of cold hard cash even possible. The implication is pretty clear that YouTube won’t back down, even if that leads to shuttering the site which would ultimately destroy all value to everyone, to Viacom and amateurs alike.