Friday, June 12, 2009

This is fun

From the Open Content Alliance.

Copyright abuse: buy your own songs with other people's credit cards - get the royalties

And file sharing seemed a tricky thing. What about this:
An international fraud in which a gang allegedly made thousands of pounds downloading its own songs from online music stores with stolen credit cards has been cracked by the Metropolitan police and the FBI, the Met claimed yesterday.

The gang are alleged to have made several songs which they gave to an online US company, which then uploaded them to be sold on iTunes and Amazon.

Over five months they bought the songs thousands of times, spending around $750,000 (£468,750) on 1,500 stolen US and UK credit cards, according to the Met. The criminal network then also allegedly reaped the royalties from the tracks, pulling in an estimated $300,000, paid by the two sites, which were unaware of the fraud being committed against them.

From the Guardian.

Times says Lord Carter to return to Industry

From The Times.
The sensitive nature of his current role means political and industry opponents will be watching closely to see what he does next. His report, [digital britain] to be published next Tuesday, will propose measures to extend access to broadband internet services and changes to how public service broadcasting is funded. Most controversially, it will tackle the rapid growth of illegal downloads, which are hitting the revenues of the film and music industries.

The Government is thought to have backed away from proposals to require internet service providers to bar customers caught repeatedly accessing pirated material.

Instead, insiders expect Lord Carter to recommend the introduction of premium-rate internet services that will allow users to access what they wish. Providers would then be expected to compensate music and film producers from a share of the additional revenue.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why Adopt? A VC speaks...

...and hundreds respond.

Let's take ten of the most popular new consumer technology products in recent years (with a couple of our portfolio companies in the mix): iPhone, Facebook, Wii, Hulu, FlipCam, Rock Band, Mafia Wars, Blogger, Pandora, and Twitter and let's try to describe in one sentence or less why they broke out (feel free to debate the reasons they broke out in the comments):

iPhone - mobile browser with a killer touch screen interface
Facebook - a social net with real utility
Wii - gesture based user interface for gaming
Hulu - your favorite TV shows in a fantastic web UI
FlipCam - a video cam that fits in your pocket comfortably
Rock Band - everyone can be a rock star for a few minutes
Mafia Wars - a natively social game built for social nets
Blogger - a printing press for everyone
Pandora - drop dead simple personalized radio
Twitter - blogging everyone can do in less than a minute

In most of these cases, the breakthrough product or service delivered a new experience to consumers that they had never had before.

From Fred Wilson's VC blog. The responses are great too.

France, the Internet and Human Rights

On Nicolas Sarkozy's three strikes...
Some European countries, however, have all but succumbed to the pressure of the media industry; France, in particular, has gone the farthest, since the three strikes law was approved there by the French National Assembly with the support of the president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Now, however, this measure has been dealt a blow by the French Constitutional Council (highest legal authority in France), which rejected the idea that some newly created agency can have the authority to disconnect a user from the net. The Council said that free access to the internet was a human right, and only a judge should have the power to disconnect someone.

From Mashable. And CNET adds:
The council said "free access to public communication services on line" was a human right that only a judge should have the power to disconnect.

When I get old I want to stop being a hippy

In probably the saddest quote to feature in Around Robin, here's how - from Tubular Mike Oldfield.

"I'd probably say to my younger self, get yourself a whole collection of lawyers. Which is what I have now. I don't have any friends; I just have lawyers. At the last count I had about 15 different sets of them for all kinds of problems. And you can trust them because you're paying them. I know that sounds very negative, but that's the world we live in."

In the increasingly interesting Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mess, not Big Idea: could be good; could be innovative

We’ve become accustomed to a media world dominated by monopolies and oligopolies. So we — and especially the paid journalists who remain in the craft — tend to imagine that just a few big institutions will rise from the sad rubble of the journalism business.

That’s not where it’s going, at least not anytime soon. We’re heading into an incredibly messy but also wonderful period of innovation and experimentation that combines technology and people and pushes great and outlandish ideas into the real world. The result will a huge number of failures but also a large number of successes.

From Dan Gillmor.

Sharing another Election Result

Sweden's Pirate Party, striking a chord with voters who want more free content on the Internet, won a seat in the European Parliament, early results showed Sunday.

The Pirate Party captured 7.1 percent of votes in Sweden in the Europe-wide ballot, enough to give it a single seat. The party wants to deregulate copyright, abolish the patent system and reduce surveillance on the Internet.
"This is fantastic!" Christian Engstrom, the party's top candidate, told Reuters. "This shows that there are a lot of people who think that personal integrity is important and that it matters that we deal with the Internet and the new information society in the right way."

From Reuters.

The Internet and Government Recruitment

An interesting essay on the relationship of government to the Internet.
...take a look for a moment at Wikipedia, MoneySavingExpert, Blogger or - all big websites, all doing different things. Each one, however, is in its own way is reducing the ability of large, previously well functioning institutions to function as easily.

These services are reducing traditional institutions ability to charge for information, seize big consumer surpluses, limit speech or fix marriages. It has, in other words, become harder to be a big business, newspaper, repressive institution or religion. Nor is this traditional ‘creative destruction’ going on in a normal capitalist economy: this isn’t about one widget manufacturer replacing another, this is about a newspaper business dying and being replaced by no one single thing, and certainly nothing recognisable as a newspaper business.

This common pattern of more powerful tools for citizens making life harder for traditional institutions is, for me, a cause for celebration. However, I am not celebrating as a libertarian (which I am not) I celebrate it because it marks a historic increase in the freedom of people and groups of people, and a step-change in their ability to determine the direction of their own lives.

The author, Tom Steinberg, offers some thoughts on the future of policy makers - in light of the above.
Coming up with new uses of technology, or perceiving how the Internet might be involved with undermining something in the future is an essential part of a responsible policy expert’s skill-set these days, no matter what policy area they work in. It should be considered just as impossible for a new fast-stream applicant without a reasonably sophisticated view of how the Internet works to get a job as if they were illiterate ( a view more sophisticated than generated simply by using Facebook a lot, a view that is developed through tuition ). Unfashionably, this change almost certainly has to be driven from the center.

Steinberg is the director of mySociety, a non-profit, open source organisation. He was a policy analyst who worked in Tony Blair's Strategy Unit from 2001 to 2003.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A talk that should not be missed at the Saatchi Gallery

For the unintentional laughs.
The Saatchi Gallery / Sunday Telegraph Art Prize for Schools debate, presented by Intelligence Squared


Camila Batmanghelidjh: Advocate for vulnerable children and founder of two children's charities, The Place 2 Be and Kids Company where she currently works with some of the most traumatised young people.

Stephen Bayley: Broadcaster and consultant. Founding director of London's Design Museum and outspoken commentator on all matters concerning art in everyday life.

Alain de Botton: Writer of a number of bestselling essays including most recently 'The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work'. Co-founder of The School of Life, 'a new social enterprise offering good ideas for everyday living'.

Antony Gormley: Artist best known for his large-scale works such as 'Angel of the North' and 'Event Horizon' which explore the collective body and the relationship between self and other. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994 and has been a Royal Academician since 2003.

Grayson Perry: Winner in 2003 of the Turner Prize which he accepted wearing a purple satin party frock. Best known for his elaborate ceramic vases which at a distance seem classically decorative but on closer inspection are covered with narratives and commentaries dealing with aesthetic, cultural, social and political subjects.

Chair: Joan Bakewell Journalist and broadcaster.

Event Information: The discussion will take place on 1 July 2009 at The Saatchi Gallery

Doors open at 6:15 pm. The discussion starts at 7:00 pm and finishes at 8:15 pm.

Tickets £15 from Intelligence Squared

And the representative of the "facebook generation" who is to be "taught" is who exactly? Surely the debate should be: What can the "facebook generation" teach us all about art?

Now this is how to promote a new book...

...the new old media/new media mash. Lovely.

From Canal Publishing. And here is the cut out foldable.

New Business Models: iPhone newspapers

The Apple iPhone 3GS, premiered yesterday at Apple Inc's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, boasts an array of important new features for the newspaper industry and journalism at large. Perhaps most pertinent is the development that content can now be purchased from within iPhone applications. This new functionality presents newspapers with the opportunity to employ subscription and micro-payment structures to monetize the delivery of their content to their mobile phone readership.

Given the recent developments in the newspaper industry, such as the 'secret' meeting held in Chicago organised by the Newspaper Association of America to discuss how to monetise online content, it seems the question is no longer whether papers will begin charging online, but when, and how. And with regards to the iPhone 3GS, will they allow readers to continue to access their content for free, maybe making it harder to shift them to a pay structure in the future, or will newspapers seize this opportunity and begin charging readers as soon as the new OS is released?

From EditorsWeblog.
And if it works, what about every other kind of content? Interesting.

TUC: let's get militant about file sharing and jobs

Today's Daily Telegraph has an article by Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the TUC. He writes, under the in no way melodramatic headline One week to save the creative industries:
There is no doubt amongst members of our trade unions – as well as the rights-holders who are vocal on this issue – that file-sharing poses a serious but avoidable threat. What is hard to quantify is the number of productions that could have been made but never will be. The films never produced, tracks never recorded, DVDs never made available all cost jobs, whether it’s on the film set or in the high street store. A report released recently highlighted that 800,000 jobs across the economy depend on the creative industries and the production of new output.

Internet service providers hold the key to creating the change necessary to tackle illegal file-sharing. The ISPs have the direct relationship with the file-sharer and all the evidence suggests that, where a system is put in place for dealing with offenders, rates of piracy will fall dramatically. For the vast majority, simply drawing attention to the harm of their actions would be sufficient to correct behaviours but further graduated action should be taken against those who continue to file-share illegally - including limitation of internet access.

Clearly, informing the public about the impact of piracy would be effective. But the rate at which jobs and conditions are being damaged brings an urgent call to the ISPs to play the right role. Just as they need new television, film and music to fuel engagement with the internet, so they should live up to their responsibility to those who work in the production of the content.

What is so interesting - and there's not much here that is, other than a call to make the ISPs "policemen", which having sat in a briefing at lawyers, Clifford Chance, to the ISPA, is going to be a fiercely argued shift in agency that will make the law firms a very large profit and is far from happening - are the assumptions and absences here. How many films "could have been made but never will" is a question that has been asked of the British film industry since the birth of cinema. Why isn't Brighton Hollywood, is an equally relevant question.

Barber doesn't - as with so many of these type of pieces - define what is file-sharing. Has he heard about "darknet" sharing of (offline) hard drives? Does he know about RapidShare? Or about the Creative Commons? The thriving new business models of all types of creative content? Does he remember the new technology and newspapers debates of the 1980s? Does he know that education hasn't worked in these areas, and that we live digitally in an era of legal "free things"? Details, not polemic, are what we need: and forward thinking.

The Internet - and its ramifications - is not going away.

When Barber writes: "Clearly, informing the public about the impact of piracy would be effective." What does he mean? The TUC deserves much better than this: it deserves some detail, some understanding of the digital, and some acknowledgment of the power of the consumer.

Lazy. Almost Appleyard.

PS. From Peter Bazalgette.
Peter Bazalgette, the entrepreneur behind Big Brother, said: "The government decided a year ago that they would replace lost revenue from financial services by [turning to] the creative industries. The irony is that the faster the broadband, the more people will download content illegally."

David Lammy's IP Forum: the Comfort of figures

Tomorrow David Lammy, currently our IP Minister, will host a forum in London on the "economic value" of Intellectual Property with 40 invited participants. He and his team, with the help of the IPO and SABIP, will be seeking to establish "priorities for commissioning economic research on intellectual property". It should be interesting.

Also interesting is the scope of the discussion: it considers such issues as "determinants of patenting in firms", the "value of patents across sectors", "strategic behaviour in the use of intellectual property rights", the "relationship between IPR innovation and economic performance", the "implications of wider factors such as technological and social change..." and "the role, and effectiveness of alternative/complementary potential policies to stimulate innovation."

It is perhaps in these last two areas that the minister's forum can provide some major illumination. As our report (and part two) on digital consumer behaviours and attitudes showed, the debates about IP in the digital realm are being driven from the top down, but influenced from bottom up - by us the users. Issues of value and utility of content online are changing very fast. And, beyond the headline grabbing figures (about which I'll write in some length soon) there are profound questions about the nature of copyright in the era of "free things", the urgent need to investigate new kinds of business models, and the larger discussion about the creative industries and the public domain, that require the impact of us the users to be part of the discussion.

I hope that is the case. But as Rory Cellan-Jones wrote about our report:

This report was meant for the culture minister David Lammy, and feeds into the government's thinking ahead of the Digital Britain report, but it may provide him with little comfort.

So if not comfort, then at least, some food for thought. Here's one idea from the report that Rory picked up on:
For the digital consumer, many file-sharing services are now as big - and as trusted - brands as those of any large, legal corporation. So Limewire or Pirate Bay is seen as offering convenience and good service, just as older consumers might have liked to shop at the Co-Op or get their paper from WH Smith.

Looks like excellent "economic value" from this laptop. The minister has said that up to ten million people download unauthorized copyright/IP protected goods; and we, being naturally more conservative, have pointed to industry figures that claim it is at least seven million. Whatever the number one of the key questions for the Minister and the IPO is the "economic value" of prosecuting all of these people, or of initiating the expensive processes of "three strikes and out" or "turning down the access speeds".

The outcome of this particular forum is much anticipated.