FCC Public Hearings on Media Ownership TODAY

The Davidson Center at USC was filled beyond capacity with an energetic and at times vocal crowd. Shortly after the hearings began an overflow room was set up: the public interest is definitely ALIVE and kicking in support of the local news initiative and other topics of discussion. The FCC commissioners, divided 3-2 in favor of Republicans, found themselves laughing at the most unlikely speakers at the early session which focused on: “Creative Community / Independent Programming.”

Click here to read the Commissioner’s testimonies, click here for audio archives and live video of today’s two sessions (the second this evevining in El Segundo).

* Click here to read the testimony of Lear Center Director Marty Kaplan (PDF).
* Click here to read Patrick Verrone’s testimony (president of the Writer’s Guild of America, west).
* Click here to read the testimonies of the SAG’s President Alan Rosenberg, and VP Anne-Marie Johnson.

Other speakers included: REM bassist Mike Mills on behalf of the Recording Artists’ Coalition, John Connolly, president of AFTRA, and members of Parents Television Council.

Long live local media! Here’s to the FCC getting an earful.

Siva Vaidhyanathan on Journalists, Google, and the Future of Copyright

“As the most pervasive regulation of speech and culture, the copyright system will help determine the richness and strength of democracy in the twenty-first century,” Siva Vaidhyanathan wrote in today’s Columbia Journalism Review. In “Copyright Jungle,” Vaidhyanathan examines the borderline legal/illegal copyright issues in the present day and how copyright law is currently being reshaped before our eyes — and most reporters are missing the point and risking the access and freedom that they (and most everybody) have grown so dependent on in the digital age.

In recent years, large multinational media companies have captured the global copyright system and twisted it toward their own short-term interests. The people who are supposed to benefit most from a system that makes ideas available — readers, students, and citizens — have been excluded. No one in Congress wants to hear from college students or librarians.

What begins as a critique of Kevin Kelly’s “Scan This Book!” feature in a May ’06 NYTimes Magazine (which mentions Google’s Library project at least 50 times), continues as a timely updated supplement for those of us thumbing through The Anarchist in the Library for the first time.

Google’s project, if it survives court challenges, would probably have modest effects on writing, reading, and publishing. For one thing, Kelly’s predictions depend on a part of the system he slights in his article: the copyright system.

Tim O’Reilly, who once argued that fewer than 4% of all books ever published continue to be commercially exploited, supported Google’s Book Search initiative posting research after Kelly’s article indicating the “long tail” effect of online indexing of as many books as possible (or in Google’s proposal, all of the titles in five major U.S. libraries). [link is to UC Berkeley research paper PDF, Google’s documentation on the library project is here].

But with corporations and media conglomerates hankering to lock up digital rights and ignore/shun the concept andn value of CC-style copyrights, the mainstream is missing the point by focusing on Google’s ambition to slightly alter or circumvent U.S. copyright law in an effort to add only a little to society — and “snippets” at that, writes Vaidhyanathan:

Google is exploiting the instability of the copyright system in a digital age. The company’s struggle with publishers over its legal ability to pursue its project is the most interesting and perhaps most transformative conflict in the copyright wars. But there are many other battles — and many other significant stories — out in the copyright jungle. Yet reporters seem lost.

The essay as a whole serves as a great heads-up to journalists and Free Culture-ite copyright activists alike, alluding to distortions in the media and confusion regarding ethics and legality (Da Vinci Code case), technology and it’s effect on consumer culture (p2p scare pieces) and one-dimensional dichotomies (hackers v. movie studios). (In fact the piece concludes with a “primer” for journalists).

It’s only natural for journalists to report stories with characters andn consequences regular people can relate to, but:

Reporters often fail to see the big picture in copyright stories: that what is at stake is the long-term health of our culture. If the copyright system fails, huge industries could crumble. If it gets too strong, it could strangle future creativity and research.

The modern journalist depends on Google’s system of copying (or caching) practically every pixel of information on the Web — be it for research, fact-checking or even publishing. Understanding media/copyright law in the digital age is crucial, but to report on the controversies of the day as if the sky were falling could only precipitate further restrictions on fair use and information sharing.

LINK

Future of the Internet: Liberty + Privacy

Among the more interesting studies released Sunday in the second installment of the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Future of the Internet (PDF) survey, are respondents reactions to the following hypothetical:

Prediction: As sensing, storage and communication technologies get cheaper and better, individuals’ public and private lives will become increasingly ‘transparent’ globally. Everything will be more visible to everyone, with good and bad results. Looking at the big picture – at all of the lives affected on the planet in every way possible – this will make the world a better place by the year 2020. The benefits will outweigh the costs.

The mean response of 742 individuals is of uncertainty (46% agreed vs. 49% disagree). But it’s the substance of the varied & impassioned responses that set the course for what many believe is one of the most important issues of modern time and the near future.

Here is a link to credited answers. And here’s a collection of anonymous one-liners.

The answers range from amusing to asinine, but overall the essence is that transparency — while essential to and inevitable in an open society — is a double-edged sword.

In a rather oddly phrased question, a majority of respondents agree (to my dismay) with Thomas Friedman’s mostly-BS “The World is Flat” argument, aggreeing with utopian naivete, that, by 2020, “the free flow of information will completely blur current national boundaries as they are replaced by city-states, corporation-based cultural groupings, and/or other organizations tied together by global networks.”

Perhaps it’s only appropriate — in a very Sci-Fi-esque study, that there would be no more New York and China and Japan.

Other notable conclusions from the abstract:

* A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.
* Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.
* Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
* Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.
* People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.

As Bruce Schneier said at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy tonight, “freedom equals liberty plus privacy.” Digest that…

The IEEE prefers their recently released “Bursting Tech Bubbles Before They Balloon” survey, authored by Marina Gorbis and the Institute for the Future’s David Pescovitz.

For historical reference, see PBS’ 1998 survey: Nerds 2.0.1 — a who’s-who of nerdtrepreneurs and their late 20th century musings on the future of the Internet.

Chavez Hijacks the U.S. Media — Again

Hugo Chavez took center stage on his visit this week to the United Nations in New York. He captivated the international audience, flooding the media with an onslaught of dramatic soundbytes possibly too ridiculous for even him to read (he claimed he had no prepared statements). The way Chavez steals headlines on no-news American weekends is similar to the successful tactics of his partners in Anti-Americanism in Iran and North Korea, thereby creating an around-the-world, multilingual, multicultural open-air echo chamber.

While the U.S. press is often blamed for toeing the government line and recycling — or enabling strawman arguments and misinfo, even more ridiculous is the tendency to provide a megaphone for the propaganda emanating from the swelling handful of America-hating leaders and regimes.

This is by no means a slam against the media — au contrair, the media takes care of itself — but the emptiness of the current administration’s commentary, whether on the domestic stage, ala Sept 11th anniversary, or at the U.N. this week, is opening up a dangerous black hole that is being increasingly capitalized upon by the “enemy.”

Chavez — a quasi-revolutionary buffon of sorts — gets unqualified, if not unbeliveable headlines comparing his likeness to Che Guevara, and feeds the fire with outlandish, ridiculous comments. Its no wonder that last week’s U.N. convention quickly turned into the Chavez Show. Never too slow to demonize the opposition, Chavez garnered the AP’s top story for his Bush as Devil tirade.

Chavez held up Noam Chomsky’s 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance and after it was snapped and printed and broadcast across the land it shot to #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list, garnering the Venezuelan president goofy comparisons to Oprah Winfrey.

By Friday, Hugo was all “Bush will kill me” for calling him the devil and “Bush should resign,” again taking his likeness to the top of U.S. headlines. Buried amid the looney toon lightsabering was the meager U.S. government response, “Democrats, Republicans criticize Chavez.”

Boston city councilor Jerry McDermott, who seriously recommended removing the Citgo sign visible beyond the Green Monster at Fenway (Chavez has consistently used Venezuela’s Citgo oil export brand as a political tool pandering to American society — and has provided low-cost oil for winter energy needs to low-income Mass. residents and more recently, New Yorkers and Philadelphians). Not to be one-upped, Chavez’s foreign minister raised hell Saturday alleging he was “illegally detained” by the U.S. government for “90 minutes” at the airport.

You can bet he made the most of his time.

UPDATE: Jules Crittenden takes on the AP in the Boston Herald article: “Does AP Stand for Al-Qaeda Propaganda?

Warner to Send Videos Thru YouTube

woutube is warner plus youtubeIn a potentially groundbreaking move for the music / entertainment industry, Warner Music Group is set to announce an deal to distribute copyrighted content through the video upload/download/streaming megahub, YouTube.

Details are still emerging, but interesting provisions have already been leaked regarding the preemption of inevitable remixing and mashing. YouTube has apparently developed royalty-tracking software that promises to “detect when homemade videos are using copyrighted material.” Somehow, the technology will enable Warner to maintain ownership control and “review the video and decide whether it wants to approve or reject it.”

“Technology is changing entertainment, and Warner Music is embracing that innovation,” said Warner Music Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. “Consumer-empowering destinations like YouTube have created a two-way dialogue that will transform entertainment and media forever.”

An interesting twist to a weekend that began with Universal Music Group’s head, Doug Morris, flat-out cursing out YouTube and similar Web sites as “copyright infringers.”

Read the entire A.P. article (source).

MORE: TechCrunch, PaidContent. Buy the rumor, sell upon the news?

UPDATE: NYT’s article quotes Sonific CEO Gerd Leonhard:

“The record companies are realizing their game is completely lost in terms of controlling the market,” Mr. Leonhard said. “Digital sales aren’t picking up as they should. If they don’t play ball now, they’re going to sit by themselves while everyone else is using their content for nothing.”

PLUS: Peter Kafka in Forbes on the adolescence of YouTube.