a new marketplace for media

mediAgora defines a fair, workable market model that works with the new realities of digital media, instead of fighting them.

  • Creators should be credited and rewarded for their work.
  • Works can be incorporated into new creative works.
  • When they are, all source works should be credited and rewarded.
  • Customers should pay a known price.
  • Successful promotion of work should be rewarded too.
  • Individuals can play multiple roles - Creator, Promoter, Customer
  • Prices and sales figures should be open
  • Relationships are based on trust and reputation
  • Copy protection destroys value
Sunday, September 29, 2002

No, I'm not missing that Kevin. It's pretty much the same. Once people blindly blame Microsoft, the debate is over, and it becomes about good versus evil and monopoly vs competition, and not about technology. Microsoft doesn't intentionally break compatibility with 3rd parties. As I said before - follow the money. They're in a position now that such a break would immediately trigger a winning court case for the other side.
Typically, they fix problems, and that causes problems with the 3rd party apps. Helping 3rd party developers to avoid this stuff was my job for 3 years, so I can vouch for the effort made to inform people (as of 2 years ago). And the Hollywood/Music thing - well it was late and I was tired so sue me. ;-)

The point for Microsoft to learn from my comment, which you imply in your 2nd paragraph, is that people EXPECT the problem to have been caused by Microsoft. They've literally 'trained' people to think of Microsoft and Frustration with their computers in the same moment. Hence in this situation, they 'expect' that Microsoft broke software intentionally, or that they would decide unilaterally to keep people from copying content. That will be the company's biggest fight into the future, in my opinion.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

As ye reap...

Howard, you're missing the second part of Godwin's law - that once a comparison to Hitler occurs, all useful debate is over.

However, the situations are not parallel- Hitler is dead and buried, and Nazism is largely a spent force, but Microsoft is still a significant part of most computer users' daily environment.

If MS break binary compatibility for 3rd party applications, then that is bad code, but it can probably be put down to arrogance, hubris or incompetence on their part rather than malice. However, as they are a convicted predatory monopoly that has yet to be sentenced, it is understandable that people are suspicious.

Why Hollywood would care about music (rather than movies) is a bit of a non sequitur too, but insofar as it indicates that people are wary of Microsoft's operating systems becoming judge, jury and executioner for their alleged unauthorised copying, while the company itself so obviously benefits from due process, I take that as an encouraging sign.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Microsoft

On another email list I belong to related to the NYU ITP program, people were claiming that an MS patch kept someone from downloading MP3s due to Microsoft's relationship with Hollywood. Everyone playing along here at home knows that MS and Hollywood are arms length at best.
The Village voice article talks about someone having problems ripping tracks after an MS upgrade, but that's probably bad coding. But it is amazing on a that on a tech list that inevitably the discussion turns to Microsoft bashing. You may be familiar with "Godwin's Law," named for Mike Godwin originally of the Electronic Frontier Foundation which indicates that in any newsgroup the discussion inevitably involves a comparison to Nazis or Hitler. I'm posting here a corollary to that, "Greenstein's Corollary" and it seems somehow amazing that no one has come up with this:
"In any technical discussion on a newsgroup or email list, where a technical problem exists and the discussion gets longer, the probability that Microsoft will be blamed approaches 1."

Having said that, my response to this Village Voice column and my list-mates who mis-interepreted the column to propose that MS is blocking MP3 downloads follows.

Ok, so we're reduced to Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Fine. Let's go for facts and experience instead. The article refers the RIPPING NOT DOWNLOADING.

I worked on the product. I know the beast pretty well. I know the PR angles too. I worked on some. Microsoft is not stupid enough, without the Government ordering them to (stay tuned - that will happen if we're not paying attention), to keep people from downloading content of their choice.

SECURE content. MP3s are not secure content.
Keeping SECURE content unplayable refers to the ability of you to be ripping content (or downloading content you paid for that is managed by digital rights) but not being able to play it where there is not a licenced file. In otherwords - you can DRM the songs you rip with Windows Media Player so they only work on the PC where they're ripped. That choice was ON by default until the PR hit was bad, and now that choice is OFF by default.

The question, then, is whether Microsoft took advantage of a chance to muck with your ripper. Mr. Roboto waded into the morass of Microsoft flackery to get the straight dope. After much cajoling—as well as several "We never got your e-mail request" kiss-offs—the horse's mouth came back with this simple statement: "This situation is not typical. For these types of situations, we advise consumers to contact Microsoft technical support at 800-936-3500." The spokesperson also recommended a visit to

If I knew the MP3 ripper product name, I bet there would be a hundred google hits to fix the issue. The person had a 3rd party ripper - possible it was dependent, as many products are, on components built into a specific version of the OS or the Media Player. I can't tell you how many developers code to MS DLLs and don't pack their own DLL copy into their distribution and hard link them. IF MS updates that component, and the company doesn't issue a patch - the product breaks. Common occurance, but not proof of dastardly deeds, just bad coding. The article you quote says "maybe" this happens, and hedges its bets on a 'spooky' advice to call tech support. Bad Journalism and it's very easy to make it look like MS should take the blame, everyone assumes they're evil. That's an easy way out.

That said, there ***definitely are*** some stupid and *frankly offensive* terms in the latest upgrade click-through licenses that technically allow MS to download and "FIX" security holes they find in their software. As a CTO I don't let anything patch my software until I read up on it, and have tested it if possible.
IF you don't like this option, you
A) don’t use the patch - and as Mr. Roboto says, you leave a security hole open.
B) run something like Zone Alarm so you know who's downloading what when to your PC from the domain.
C) complain to your congressman or start a class action lawsuit (this is America, after all)
D) learn Linux or Mac
E) RTFM;en-us;Q327850 tells you how to disable auto update in the registry in Win2000, there's a similar article for XP that I can't find but did find previously (oooohhh very suspicious).

Bottom Line - follow the money. The PR hit microsoft would take for keeping people from downloading or playing their MP3s (their own legal ones or others) would be disasterous and take years to fix. It would cost them *more money than making Hollywood happy would make them money - always a good sign if you're trying to figure out sides. They won't provide software to Rip to MP3 due to the cost of licensing it for every copy of windows - that bill had almost as many 0's behind it as Bill Gates does. *

Let's keep the FUD to a minimum - I want proof before claiming that MS is keeping people from downloading files, just as I'd demand proof if the same allegations came at Apple or some variant of Linux that someone made.
So we're clear - yes I own MS stock, no I'm not selling it now, and no that is not imparing my judgement on this.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

2 interesting Articles today

The WSJ had 2 articles - Rockers vs. Beancounters details some musician's fights to claim their properly-owed royalties from the music companies. The California Legislature is having some of these folks testifiy today, with reps from the record labels on hand.

The artists contend that musicians are deprived of millions of dollars in royalties each year because industry accounting is riddled with mistakes and based on antiquated formulas delivered in vague language. The Recording Artists Coalition, whose members include Madonna, Sheryl Crow and Beck, is among the groups seeking legislation that would impose penalties on record companies for accounting errors

The second one is also interesting - Intertainer is claiming an Anti-Trust issue with the movie studios, who have their own MovieLink property to distribute films online.

It's not clear that Movielink, a joint venture of five major studios, displays the same characteristics as Premiere. Premiere had an exclusive distribution window and an agreed-on pricing formula. The Movielink studios have said that their venture doesn't demand exclusive windows, and that they each set their own pricing. But the Intertainer suit charges that the studios were in effect using Movielink to help set licensing rates for Intertainer.

What, a company giving a better deal to a subsidiary/jv than to a market competitor? In Hollywood? Only in the movies, baby. Have my people call your people, we'll work it out. Yeah, baby.

(Note, the WSJ articles are by subscription only. Sorry.)

Monday, September 23, 2002

r, K or RIAA?

Janis Ian's clear exposition on the music industry made me crystallize a thought that's been at the back of my mind about the record business - they need to change their reproductive strategy.

Janis says:
Seriously, diversity is something record companies can't afford anymore - not the majors, at any rate. I'd go to this article, posted at Linux Journal, which quotes a Newsweek article (July 15,2002) by Steven Levy saying "So why are the record labels taking such a hard line? My guess is that it's all about protecting their Internet-challenged business model. Their profit comes from blockbuster artists. If the industry moved to a more varied ecology, independent labels and artists would thrive--to the detriment of the labels, which would have trouble rustling up the rubes to root for the next Britney. The smoking gun comes from testimony of an RIAA-backed economist who told the government fee panel that a dramatic shakeout in Webcasting is "inevitable and desirable because it will bring about market consolidation." That's really it in a nutshell. "Market consolidation" means the less artists they have to promote, the less ultimate dollars they'll spend. The smaller the playlist, the greater the chance that audiences will buy something from that playlist alone - because that's all you'll be able to find out there.

If you follow the biology link above, you'll see a clear distinction between r and K reproductive strategies. I'll summarize briefly - K strategies work in a stable, restricted environment that is near to carrying capacity (eg the Billboard chart and radio playlist, or record shop stock). In this case, the successful strategy is to have few offspring, and invest lots of effort on nurturing them and helping them to survive.

r strategies work in an unpredictable environment where you are not near the carrying capacity of the environment (the Internet). Here the successful strategy is to have huge numbers of offspring with a low investment of effort, let them loose and expect that enough will do well and survive to keep your species going.

If you're a K strategist that finds yourself in an less predictable and less closed environment than you thought, you need to move closer to the r model, and spread your seed more widely. It seems the Record Industry is doing the opposite.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

You must remember this...

LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) --- The Writers Guild of America West on Tuesday threw its support behind the Directors Guild of America after a pre-emptive legal strike was made against 16 of Hollywood's best-known directors by CleanFlicks over third-party editing of DVDs and videocassettes.

"We are astounded that a company would target some of our country's most esteemed directors in a misguided effort to claim a right to alter artistic work for commercial exploitation,"

"Here in Hollywood, we're shocked, shocked to discover that commercial exploitation of artistic works has been happening."

"Your points of gross, M'sieur"

Will the BBC allow freedom to edit?

The Grauniad:
...rumours - albeit completely unconfirmed - do come out of Bush House.

For instance, there's the one about a complete change in copyright philosophy: where the idea is that the licence fee payer has already paid for, and in many respects owns, all the content produced by the BBC. Thinking this way, the BBC could then allow anyone who wants to use existing BBC content to do so. The onus then will rest on the commercial operations to take on board both BBC advice, and their content, and create something better. Such a radical plan, if the rumour is accurate, would place the BBC in a unique position.

Hopefully not -the idea that you can freely create derivative works for sale, as long as anyone viewing them purchases the source works too is a strong principle. I belive this is is the rich media equivalent of the implicit right to link on the Web, and could lead to a similar flowering of creativity.

I think this is a solution to the CleanFlicks/MovieMask dispute too - that they can distribute modifed versions as long as they distribute the original uncut one too. DVD's rarely-used alternate edit feature should make this easy, but being able to add your own commentaries or alternative soundtracks is very interesting and exciting, and could help promote films just as 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid' or 'What's Up Tigerlily' did.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002


This has to be the most absurd measure I've ever seen of attempting to prevent illegal distribution of music. Found via Blogdex.

I won't even go into detailing why this is so wrong, because I think it speaks for itself. Suffice it to say, the lack of trust that exists in media companies has arrived at a truly pathetic level.

Edit: On second pass, I'll include a quote, since I remembered belatedly that the NYT requires registration to view articles:
"Writers receiving review copies of two soon-to-be-released albums... are finding the CD's already inside Sony Walkman players that have been glued shut. Headphones are also glued into the players, to prevent connecting the Walkman to a recording device."

Monday, September 16, 2002

Artists' Rights Management?

USATODAY: [T]he artists' rights movement has set the stage for combat that could revolutionize the music industry.

What started as a classic David-and-Goliath skirmish over contractual terms could be tilting toward a level battlefield as opposition on a wide range of issues swells against an industry mired in a sales slump.

"The record business is in rough enough shape that something might actually change," says Craig Marks, editor of Blender magazine. "If things weren't so uncertain, so bleak and in such disarray, the industry would be immovable, even with a gun to its head. If there was ever a set of circumstances that could lead to artists making inroads, it's now."

Studios not pirates are challenge, says IBC panel

The biggest danger to Hollywood's intellectual property is not Internet video piracy nor the intractable problems of encryption and digital rights management (DRM), but Hollywood itself, according to a panel of experts convened here by the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) and chaired by Brad Hunt, chief technology officer of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

In a Pogoesque paraphrase of "We have met the enemy, and he is us," Johnathan Taplin, chairman and chief executive officer of Intertainer Inc., a Culver City, Calif.-based on-demand video service company, said: "Technology is not the problem. It's the content cartel!"

Taplin claimed that Hollywood operates a de facto monopoly on content that bottles up movies so tightly that piracy becomes the best - and often only -- way to distribute them digitally. "There is a content cartel used to running over networks that it controls," said Taplin, charging that the studios, "want to be able to control the food chain from beginning to end."

He later complains that studios want 60% of the revenue, which doesn't sound all that unreasonable to me.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Sampling 'sampling my privates'

This piece, though not new, raises a point relevant both to defenders of IP rights and those who would look for new models of handling them:

Sampling and audio montage have been around for decades, though digital sampling, was not widely available until the mid 1980s. Hip Hop was of course already well established at the time and offered a popular musical vernacular for the technology. The question is, given the time and distance, why is it some things are taken for granted to be intellectual property and other categories of intellectual property are more recipes for struggle than clear guidelines for artists?

The authors, Joel Schalit and Jonathan Sterne, go on to say:

We believe the answer to this question demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the concept of intellectual property and its attendant notion of copyright violation. Put simply, intellectual property is only a valid category after the fact, after a certain set of practices are defined as theft. This is because the very notion of intellectual property requires a stable conception of content and media; without such a stable concept, intellectual property becomes an empty category. New communications technologies often wreak havoc with conceptions of copyright until the medium in question has a well-defined industrial and content structure. This can sometimes take years, and as is clear with the sampling example above, even a well defined industry sometimes has to grapple with a new technology.

In short, if the very concept of property is unstable, these moments of crisis are assured to repeat themselves every time there is a rift either in art or technology to challenge whatever happens to be the current compromise. The entire piece is worth reading, as it looks at similar rifts in India and Japan, and how these were adjudicated.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Bricklin thinks it through

The Recording Industry is Trying to Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg

As well as pointing out the rise in cellphone use possibly causinga decrease in walkman use while travelling he makes these points:

Not all giving others copies of music is to avoid payment. People make mixes of songs for other people as gifts. (PCs make this really easy compared to the cassette tape days.) Those songs are sometimes ones that remind them of times together because they are the main ones they listened to over and over again when working, riding in a car, at camp, etc. Those songs come from CDs, often purchased, that one or both parties own. The "gift" is the compilation -- the mix -- not the music, since they already have the music. (That's interesting, because a compilation can be an expressive thing, maybe even worthy of its own copyright protection.) Our use of music is evolving and it isn't just to save money.

What effects are there that are increasing CD sales?
The one I keep hearing about from people I know who buy many CDs is the learning about new musicians from friends, and sampling their songs through downloads and other means of sharing. Once they find out they like the musicians, they then seek out their CDs for purchase (recent and past) as well as go to their concerts. This is of great importance to the health of the music industry. Another area is buying CDs as gifts. A "real" CD is even more special today, and that makes it an even more special gift. You show you care enough to get the pretty shrink-wrapped copy, not the hand-labeled home-burned one.

Exactly. And exactly whet the promoter model of mediAgora is meant to encourage.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Someone needs mediAgora

Ready when you are, JT

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

MS reveals its real customers

The LA Times on MS's DRM policy
A number of privacy and consumer activists are concerned. More ominous for some are things Microsoft hasn't announced, such as changes in its small-type licensing agreements with those who downloaded a security patch for Media Player in the last month.
Those agreements give Microsoft the authority to disable bootlegged content or software Microsoft doesn't like--such as a peer-to-peer file-swapping application or copying mechanism--on consumers' machines.
That provision has made entertainment executives very happy, a Microsoft strategist said.
Virtually all of the proposals could be used to limit what consumers do, potentially eroding what generally has been considered the fair use of songs, television shows and movies.