1/13/2008

DRM Is Dead, But Watermarks Rise From Its Ashes

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

With all of the Big Four record labels now jettisoning digital rights management, music fans have every reason to rejoice. But consumer advocates are singing a note of caution, as the music industry experiments with digital-watermarking technology as a DRM substitute.

Watermarking offers copyright protection by letting a company track music that finds its way to illegal peer-to-peer networks. At its most precise, a watermark could encode a unique serial number that a music company could match to the original purchaser. So far, though, labels say they won’t do that: Warner and EMI have not embraced watermarking at all, while Sony’s and Universal’s DRM-free lineups contain “anonymous” watermarks that won’t trace to an individual.

Still, privacy advocates were quick to point out that the watermarking is likely to produce fresh, empirical data that copyright material is ping-ponging across peer-to-peer sites — data the industry would use in its ongoing bid to tighten copyright controls, and to browbeat internet service providers to implement large-scale copyright-filtering operations.

Countdown for IBM Project Zero

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Over the years, Microsoft’s taken a lot of flack for attempting to undermine open source.

Despite giving away code snippets and working with vendors like Zend and MySQL, what really sticks in the mind are attempts to shore up its market share by spooking people on IP and by playing hardball.

Microsoft’s position contrasts with, say, IBM whose generous code donations and work in servers has earned it the status of benefactor to Linux and open source.

This year, though, will see IBM release the fruits of a project using a pseudo open source development method that has garnered criticism and could generate further ill will in 2008.

Project Zero, the giant’s fledgling Web 2.0 development environment, will become a commercial product later this year.

According to Project Zero head Jerry Cuomo the technology will be built in to WebSphere as part of IBM’s plans to gee up Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) projects.

Project Zero - named for its “Zero complexity. Zero overhead. Zero obstacles” - slipped out quietly last summer as an “incubator project” under a “community driven commercial development”. Despite its talk of “community” the focus of Project Zero is definitely “commercial”, and the project is no open source work. As IBM admits here, Project Zero is a commercial product.

In other words, this can be viewed as bringing the feedback typical of an open source project without any of the obligations to give the resulting technology back to the community.

Wash those Zombies right off your Facebook profile!

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

It might still be January, but Facebook has decided to introduce a sort of virtual spring cleaning.

The social-networking site, which famously opened its gates to developer applications last May, announced late on Thursday that it will soon be instituting a way for app-happy Facebookers to keep up appearances by relegating many of their widgets to an “extended profile.” By clicking the button, you will be able to hide everything except Facebook’s own applications and a number of others, and a “Show Extended Profile” button will reveal the entire thing to you or your friends.

AllFacebook noted that this may mean bad news for developers who’ve created little-known Facebook applications and are counting on viral buzz to grow their products. If those applications are rendered invisible by “extended profile” controls, that viral expansion could be stalled.

Breach worries online porn industry

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

When operators of sex-oriented Web sites gather at the Internext convention starting Sunday in Las Vegas, a major leak at a little New Jersey company is likely to be a big topic.

Freehold-based Too Much Media, which sells accounting software for adult Web sites, told its customers last month that a security breach on its computers allowed hackers to access various adult Web sites’ subscriber lists.

Keith Kimmel of Norman, Okla., who runs two Web sites that feature porn, said the breach has the potential to embarrass.

“Would you really want a record floating around the Internet that you subscribe to hardcore bondage?” he asked.

Indeed, it appears stolen personal and company information is being used to bombard subscribers, many of whom would rather not have their identities known, with junk e-mails advertising sexually explicit images from competitors. No credit information appears to have been stolen.

Porn companies challenged by Internet sites

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

After years of booming sales supported by videotapes, DVDs and the Internet, the adult film industry is being challenged by easy video-sharing Web sites offering explicit content for free.

“We’re dealing with rampant piracy, tons of free content,” said Steven Hirsch, co-founder of privately held Vivid, the best-known studio making sex films.

Vivid once earned 80 percent of its roughly $100 million a year from DVD sales, but last year that fell to 30 percent, Hirsch said in an interview.

The Internet challenge, a topic of discussion at the biggest adult film expo of the year in Las Vegas this week, has already presented itself to the music industry and other mainstream entertainment.

Much of the Internet competition for the U.S. porn world, largely based in southern California, comes from Web sites like Toronto, Canada-based XTube.com, whose format is modeled after Google’s YouTube.

Some of the videos on the XTube site come from commercial studios while others are posted by amateurs.

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