Ring Them Bells Already: May Diebold-Gate Begin

Last week, former Maryland state legislator Cheryl C. Kagan was anonymously given disks containing source code to Diebold’s BallotStation and Global Election Management System (GEMS) tabulation software used in the 2004 elections.

A machine running on the same software version (4.3.15c) defined in the source code sent to Kagan was thoroughly hacked into and documented in September by Princeton’s Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten in the 26-page “Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine” (view PDF, “Internet Christian minister” Rev. Bill McGinnis summarizes it here).

Kagan’s story was first reported last Friday in Baltimore Sun by reporter Melissa Harris.

An accompanying letter refers to the State Board of Elections and calls Kagan “the proud recipient of an ‘abandoned baby Diebold source code’ right from SBE accidentally picked up in this envelope, right in plain view at SBE. … You have the software because you are a credible person who can save the state from itself. You must alert the media and save democracy.”

No matter how or even if Kagan’s story is true, a crime, or whatever — it remains both ironic and suspicious that the one company authorized to make electronic voting systems in this country has kept their source code bottled up as if it contained the ingredients for Coca Cola’s secret syrup. Opening source code to independent professional reviewers and critics who may find bugs and other flaws should be mandatory for a company that for months has represented itself with broken HTML code on their home page (see http://www.diebold.com/dieboldes/).

(Coincidentally 2 men pleaded guilty this morning in the FBI investigation into stolen Coke “trade secrets.”)

Joe Strupp, of the newspaper industry watchdog Editor & Publisher asks, “Is Press Taking Possible Voting Problems Seriously?” (ABC’s World News Tonight is devoting a fair amount of programming to the issue.)

Kagan, a Democrat, is the executive director of the Freeman Foundation — a philanthropic community-focused charity — and is a noted critic of her state’s election chief and the Diebold voting systems. She said she’s been in contact with the FBI and intends to cooperate with any investigation.

Maryland’s deputy elections administrator claimed the disks contain “nothing that’s being used in this election.” Which is quite a suspicious thing to say in and of itself.

In other election season news, hasGoogle Earth new layers and placemarks with useful 2006 election info.

The MPAA’s Boy Scout Propaganda

When they’re not clearing brush, tying knots and starting fires, the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles are being imbibed with honor-thy-copyright-loyally flim-flam. No joke.

boy scout mpaa copyrightOddly, no byline on this tight report from the AP’s boy scout beat:

“Working with the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles, we have a real opportunity to educate a new generation about how movies are made, why they are valuable, and hopefully change attitudes about intellectual property theft,” Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement Friday.

Contact Victor Zuniga, head of Boy Scouts LA to find out the nature of these “merit badges.”

Look Who’s Sleeping With You(Tube)

OMG! UMG is not gonna sue YouTube as threatened last month? Is YouTube pinned or just happy to share the bed? Today’s New York Times pulls back the covers:

Three of the four major music companies — Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony and Bertelsmann’s jointly owned Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and the Warner Music Group — each quietly negotiated to take small stakes in YouTube as part of video- and music-licensing deals they struck shortly before the sale, people involved in the talks said yesterday. The music companies collectively stand to receive as much as $50 million from these arrangements, these people said.

This payoff will certainly materialize faster than any potential compensation from a lawsuit would. But the possible catch — doesn’t part-ownership also entail liability for any future content-related lawsuits filed against YouTube?

Earlier this week, Universal sued video-sharing portals Grouper and Bolt, demanding 15 grand per infringement and telling the press:

“Grouper and Bolt… cannot reasonably expect to build their business on the backs of our content and the hard work of our artists and songwriters without permission and without compensating the content creators,” a Universal spokesman said.

Yeah, I’m sure they’re worried about 50 Cent appearing on a mini-YouTube or Mariah Carey being compensated (doesn’t she have like a $20M contract)?

Last month it seemed Universal woke up thinking it was still 1999, only big mama RIAA is at bay (or, more likely, abusing the courts and/or high school kids).

Will there be more juicy details on this YouTube + Big 3 of 4 so-called partnership? Or is the new YouTube opaque?

Return of the [Pirate] Jigga

The Wall Street Journal is all worked up about Jay-Z’s p2p-pimpin’ for Coke’s Stageside site (which directs you to download video files directly or via direct links to BitTorrent, Gnutella and the like).

Is the industry *finally* comin round the bend? The article — titled “Record Labels Turn Piracy Into a Marketing Opportunity” details what could be considered (to put it nicely) the industry taking a wide turn. An alternate (if not more accurate) title in a more reality-based publication could be “Record Labels Think p2p is Just Another Way to Own You.”

According to the WSJ, the old-school “decoy” technique, in which bad-karma’d companies like ARTISTdirect flood the p2p networks with fakes of “as many as 30 of the Billboard Top 100” to frustrate users to endlessly search for a legit copy of a song instead of hearing it once and then buying the record (not to mention, the title of the song spikes up to the top of the search charts as a result of the neverending-search-for nothing corporat practical joke). Since this is a Public Diplomacy course, let’s just make a stretch and call it the carrot-stick approach.

Unfortunately, big media still thinks it has the upper hand and somehow must *fight* p2p and other “free” media-sharing, especially in light of the 2005 Grokster decision. From the WSJ article:

Before the ruling, record labels worried that they might undercut their legal arguments if they used peer-to-peer sites for their own purposes. Now, “we’re basically free to exploit these billions of fake files we’re putting out,” says Randy Saaf, chief executive of MediaDefender.

MediaDefender is the p2p-weasling company that was bought out by ARTISTdirect last year. Somehow — or I’m not reading it right — the WSJ scribes are buying into MediaDefender’s notion of “marketing,” but frankly it’s no different than me sharing a hundred fake mp3’s on the old Napster and listing them as Metallica cuts.
courtesy WSJ.comThe chart to the left, featured in the WSJ article, is from BigChampagne, the same online media measuring company that confirmed that — in terms of “moving units” — Danger Mouse’s “Grey Album” was in a stratosphere to itself on Feb. 24, 2004, or Grey Tuesday, when we all went grey and/or hosted the Album. Today, BigChampagne has courted Nielsen and claims to be “the leading provider of information about popular entertainment online.”

Jay-Z, needless to say, never had a problem with the mashup concept and lo, his fortunes have only grown. Nearly two years later, might *some* of the majors be finally getting it? Turn up that Young Dro and stay tuned . . .

(More digressive irony: The top Google results for listen to the grey album are ARTISTdirect-hosted pages.
Search via Yahoo! audio search, however, and it’s all there!)