Minggu, 29 Juni 2008

MPAA helps land criminal conviction in P2P piracy case

The Motion Picture Association of America has helped convict an administrator for EliteTorrents.org, a peer-to-peer site, of felony copyright infringement and conspiracy, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.
Daniel Dove, 26, of Clintwood, Va., was the first criminal conviction after jury trial for peer-to-peer copyright infringement and the eighth overall resulting from a nationwide federal crackdown called Operation D-Elite that targeted administrators and people who provided content that was distributed through the BitTorrents hub.

The case began in 2005, when federal agents raided and shut down the popular Web site that had distributed copyrighted music and movies, including Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. At that time, Homeland security agents from several divisions served search warrants on 10 people around the country suspected of being involved with the Elite Torrents site, and took over the group's main server.

According to prosecutors, EliteTorrents attracted more than 125,000 members and assisted in the illegal distribution of about 700 movies, which were downloaded more than 1.1 million times. According to the Justice Department, Dove led a group of "uploaders" that supplied pirated content to the group, as well as recruiting members with ultra-fact broadband connections to become uploaders. Prosecutors also said Dove operated a high-speed server himself.

The MPAA "provided substantial assistance" to the investigation, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Dove faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in September, the Justice Department said.

Scott McCausland, who used to be an administrator of the EliteTorrents server before the raid, pleaded guilty in 2006 to two copyright-related charges over the uploading of Star Wars: Episode III to the Internet. As a result, he was sentenced to five months in jail and five months' home confinement


Can Verizon VCast take on iTunes?

Verizon Wireless has upped the ante in its efforts to take on Apple's iTunes store in the digital music market by offering DRM-free music for all purchased music plus a new subscription service. But will it be enough to make a dent in Apple's dominance?
On Monday, Verizon Wireless will announce the revamped VCast music store, which will be loaded with digital music that is free of the pesky digital rights management encryption on all songs that are purchased through the store. Verizon is joining Amazon as the only other digital music distributor that will be selling DRM-free music from all four of the major record labels, including, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and The EMI Group .

The company is also offering its first ever music subscription service courtesy of its relationship with Real Networks' Rhapsody America service. Verizon announced it was partnering with Rhapsody last year. And through this partnership, the company has redesigned its music store and the VCast user interface.

The new service clearly puts Verizon Wireless in a new category when it comes to digital music. Verizon cell phone subscribers as well as nonsubscribers can download the DRM-free music onto a PC and sync it to any MP3-enabled device for $0.99 a song. Songs can be purchased over Verizon's cell phone network onto a Verizon phone for $1.99 a pop. And the new VCast service also allows Rhapsody subscribers to sync their phones to the subscription service, much the same way AT&T subscribers can access the Napster subscription service.

But even though it has potential to become a major player, it's still unlikely that the cell phone company's moves will have much impact on market leader Apple. Instead, experts believe that Verizon is much more likely to help grow an already underperforming market.

"The issue isn't whether Verizon can take down iTunes," said Russ Crupnick, a senior analyst at the NPD Group. "But rather, can it help grow the market? And I think the answer to that is yes. Verizon is very well-positioned for that."

The music industry is in dire straits. Sales of CDs have been plummeting over recent years, and the industry hasn't been able to make up for the losses through digital distribution. Apple is by far the leader in digital downloads, hitting the 5 billionth song download mark from its iTunes music store just a couple of weeks ago. According to Crupnick, over three-fourths of the full music tracks downloaded come from the iTunes store. Amazon is a distant second, with other players such as Wal-Mart trailing even further behind.

So far, freeing music downloads from DRM protection hasn't done much to move the needle. Amazon and Wal-Mart have been offering DRM-free music for almost a year, and they still lag behind Apple. The reason for this could simply be that Apple is so far ahead in terms of market share that few people have reason to see DRM protection as a problem.

"When you have 80 percent market share on Apple devices," Crupnick said, "there isn't much demand from people to get unprotected music. They don't seem to encounter any issues with it."

Ed Ruth, director of digital music for Verizon, said that the company is simply trying to offer customers choices.

"Of course we recognize that Apple has done a great job," he said. "They have helped tell the digital music story quite well, and they've tilted the ecosystem in one direction. But in some ways they have trapped people into one experience. And that's the problem we're trying to solve."

Meanwhile, Verizon could also have an uphill struggle in getting people to use the Rhapsody subscription service, which costs about $15 a month for unlimited access to millions of songs. In the online world, only a small niche of music aficionados use services like Rhapsody and Napster. And so far, the model hasn't proven to be much more successful in the mobile world. AT&T has been offering the Napster music service, and even though the company hasn't published figures on how many customers are using the service, analysts say it hasn't been a runaway success.

But some analysts think that a service that does a good job of integrating Verizon's VCast with Rhapsody could help attract new users to the subscription model.

"If they can make the experience of Rhapsody on a handset complimentary to what they are already doing with VCast, I think it will make Verizon a stronger player by attracting new music subscribers," said Susan Kevorkian, an analyst at IDC.

While Verizon may never be able to beat Apple in the online music game, there's reason to believe that the company could beat out its fellow cell phone carriers and other music downloading services for market share. And in such a nascent market, Verizon still has an opportunity to make a significant amount of money from its music store and help move the carrier away from simply being a phone company.

Verizon claims that record labels have told it that in terms of revenue, it is already second to Apple when it comes to the money that is made from full track downloads. And in a recent survey of Internet users conducted by NPD Group, Crupnick said that over half of the respondents had heard of the VCast music service. This was higher than awareness for music services from other cell phone companies such as Sprint Nextel or AT&T. But it was also higher than some well-established music brands, such as Microsoft's Zune music store, Rhapsody, and Napster. Still, only about 7 percent of the respondents said they had ever used the VCast music service to download songs.

But Crupnick believes this consumer awareness could someday translate into growth for Verizon's VCast service. Verizon also has other attributes that some of these other music distribution channels don't have. In addition to selling full track songs, Verizon is also able to help the record labels monetize the same songs in multiple ways by selling ringtones, ring-back tones, and wall papers of the artists. The company has even begun working to help produce some albums using a mobile recording studio.

What's more, Verizon has access to a wide variety of music playing devices, something that Amazon and Wal-Mart don't readily offer themselves. And it already has an established billing relationship with most of the customers that will likely use its site to download music. All of this bodes well for Verizon. But is it enough to really challenge Apple's dominance?

The answer is probably no. But it could be enough to make it a strong alternative. At the end of the day, Verizon's Ruth said that it's all about forming good relationships with the music industry and providing a great service to customers.

"Our approach is to be as good a partner to the music industry as we can be, " he said. "And we always keep the customer experience and expectations in mind when designing and delivering the service. I think we've done that so far and as a result have earned the trust of our customers."


Bill Gates bows out (mostly) at Microsoft

Today is Bill Gates' last day in the office as a regular employee of the company he co-founded in 1975. But as non-executive chairman and someone who is deeply married to Microsoft, Gates is not disappearing from the company.
The transition has been well orchestrated, and he will still spend about 20 percent of his time working on Microsoft issues, such as the next-generation Office, natural interfaces, and search. And, he will still obsess and strategize about how to defeat Google.I have been covering Microsoft and Bill Gates for the last 25 years, and I've had a few memorable run-ins with the him over that time. I remember asking him about upstart programming language Java's write once/run anywhere capability in an interview I did with him in the early 1990s. He sat forward in his chair and said with conviction that Java was a stupid idea. Behind that answer, the hyper-competitive Gates was thinking about how to slay the Java dragon. Several years later Microsoft C# appeared.

And who can forget his duel with David Boies in the U.S. Justice Department vs. Microsoft antitrust case. Gates believed that the government was out to destroy Microsoft, and went on the offensive. To this day, he chafes at being called a "convicted monopolist."

In many ways Gates is very much the same as when I met him a few decades ago. His tenacity, intellectual intensity, passion for technology, and competitiveness have remained intact. Now he will be applying those character traits more fully to eradicating polio, malaria, AIDS, and other diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

I can imagine one of his chief rivals, Steve Jobs, giving him a gold-plated iPhone 3G for his retirement with the inscription: "To Bill Gates: Look who's ahead now. Best of luck, Steve Jobs."

That would like dangling meat in front of a hungry lion. Gates would accept the gift with a wry smile and at the same time think about what it would take to trump the iPhone. Even though Vista didn't leapfrog the Mac OS, and Microsoft has rarely been able to out-innovate Apple, the fire is still burning and Gates will be firing off a flurry of e-mails to Steve Ballmer and others he's left in charge.In an interview this week, Tom Brokaw of NBC asked Gates if he had an iPod. He responded, "No," and added, "The Zune is a better way to carry your music around." Vintage Bill Gates competitiveness.The planet will be better off with Gates focused on technologies and strategies for saving lives rather than defeating Steve Jobs.


Rednecks... Not a Joke

Rednecks are primarily thought of as white, working class people living in the southern part of the U.S. Nowadays, rednecks can be found all over the country. There is even some interest in the redneck lifestyle in countries overseas. The term redneck most likely got started as a way of referring to the sun-burned red necks of people who worked in the fields all day. In some places in the country, they are called hillbillies, hicks, bumpkins, or trailer trash. Hillbilly white trash is another term that is often used. Rednecks are traditionally oriented people, who work hard, support their families and try to get by the best way they can. They are always willing to help their community by volunteering as church Sunday school teachers, youth counselors, firemen and anything else needed by their community.
The recent popularity of major acts like Jeff Foxworthy, the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and Gretchen Wilson have created a new interest in the red neck lifestyle and it seems to be continuing to grow. A search of the term "redneck" on Google returns over 17 million results.

More and more people are finding that they relate to a more simple way of life. Many start with searching websites looking for jokes and funny pictures only to find there is more to be found there than just a laugh. As a member of my website, Redneck and Single, which gives single rednecks a place to meet, said, "When I saw this site, I thought it was a joke. But, after looking around, there are some real hotties here. So, I guess I'll become a redneck too." I'm sure she will be welcomed to the redneck community. This is further proof that you don't have to be born a hillbilly redneck to become one.

Although the culture probably originated in the south, you don't have to be from the south to be a redneck or even hillbilly white trash. It really is a state of mind. Rednecks have their own point of view and are mostly laid back and stress free. There is a great love of outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and camping. Of course, NASCAR garners a lot of interest. It has been called the Redneck's national sport. They own trucks for more reasons than for playing in the mud, although that will always be a big attraction.

Rednecks have a big affinity for home and family and will go to extra measures to protect them. Many homes have at least one gun. Although they may not have much, they will be thankful for what they do have. They work hard for their money, many in lower paying jobs. But they have fun doing it, as well. They know how to treat their mates and are typically attracted to partners who do the same.

The term redneck denotes someone with good common sense, and a talent for building and fixing stuff. Many tend to accumulate a lot of junk, much of it stored on the front lawn. Often, there will be an old automobile parked under a big tree, with a red neck "shade tree mechanic" trying to get it to run. A lot of that junk will be put to good use to build new things that, although not very pretty, do manage to get the job done.

Rednecks have a love of God, their country and state, and are strong supporters of the armed forces. Most believe there is more to life than money, and tend to care more about relationships and family. Many are single parents. In romantic pursuits, rednecks require that their mate be down to earth, always faithful and not afraid to get their hands dirty.

The redneck stereotype is one of an uneducated, simple minded person who delights in consuming huge quantities of cheap American beer like Pabst Blue Ribbon, lives in a trailer park and dates within their family. This has, of course, made them the brunt of many jokes.

What once was a negative term to describe farmers, construction workers and others who worked all day in the sun causing the backs of their necks to get sunburned, (red neck), has now become a description of a culture that believes in the simpler things, quality values, and a true appreciation of life, family and friends. True, the jokes are still around, but behind the laughter are a lot of decent hard working folks who, like the rest of us, are just trying to make a living and find happiness as they go through life.