TagDRM

ATT & Cargo Cults

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Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Image by One Laptop Per Child (CC by)

 

As BoingBoing reports, a leaked memo indicates that AT&T will introduce a creepy and stupid policy: If a user is suspected of copyright infringement (by which means is unclear – Hadopi style maybe?) repeatedly, AT&T will block access to Youtube and other sites and instead re-direct that user to an “on-line education tutorial”, and only after completing said tutorial will allow their users again to access the web as they please.

All the enforcement issues and the details of this particular instance aside, the political implications of what’s been going on in the world of copyright enforcement over the last 10-15 years are so creepy and skewed that it’s hard to believe we’re still even talking about this. And that a company would still even consider the option to screw their customers without a legal warrant or equivalent, just like that. When did that become acceptable?

I’m guessing that in 10 years or so we’ll look back at this era and laugh about it like today we laugh about Cargo Cults.

Unless, that is, we won’t be laughing about it because this is still going on, but then it’d be a world I wouldn’t want to live in.

Catch up to the 21st century some time soon & find business models where you get paid voluntarily without suing or surveilling anyone?

More on Boingboing.

Regional licensing is still a bitch

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Today I tried to buy an ebook. I’m a big fan of the Kindle and buy ebooks all the time. So I wanted to buy a digital copy of Lawrence Lessig‘s Republic, Lost on institutional corruption (which ironically is responsible for the mess I’m about to describe). I was surprised to find it only as hardcover and audio book on Amazon.com – and tweeted as much.

Nicely enough, Mr. Lessig got back to me personally, asking where I was accessing Amazon from. Turns out that even though my Kindle is connected to Amazon.com (ie. Amazon US, not Germany) the Kindle version just wouldn’t show up.

Intrigued by his pointer, I fired up a VPN to get a US-based IP address, but still no luck. In the end I noticed that my Kindle was set to “Region Europe”. Digging into the Kindle settings, I managed to switch it to the US by putting in a postal address I used to live at.

Let’s recap. To buy a digital book I had to…

  • register my Kindle with the US version of Amazon
  • fake an IP address through a VPN service
  • switch the Kindle settings to the US by way of an old postal address

All that to spend some money on a book that would have been cheaper and much, much easier to pirate.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

Changing to German ported version of CC (by-nc-sa) 3.0

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Since I don’t believe in restricting the flow of information, or in DRM, this blog has been published under a Creative Commons license all along. And I’ve been absolutely happy with the way it went. The web is built on sharing and remixing, and that’s exactly what Creative Commons licenses allow for, easily:

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

Licenses aren’t fixed, they change and evolve over time, and a while ago Creative Commons launched a version 3 of their license. So far, so good, but you may note that this license was the unported version.

I’ve been using the unported version until now for several reasons even though a German ported version has been around since July. (More on internationalization of CC licenses here – it’s more interesting, and way more complex than I ever expected.) The thinking was this: I’m based in Germany, but I blog in English and the vast majority of my readers is U.S.-based.

So now I’ve taken the step to use the German version of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Sharealike 3.0 license. Everything else stays exactly as it always has been: Feel free to use, remix and play with my content, as long as you link back to me. Also, if you’re planning on using my work commercially, you’ll need my agreement. (Get in touch.)

So here’s the code the Creative Commons license code generator provided:

Creative Commons License
The Waving Cat. Peter Bihr on Social Media, Web 2.0 & Digital Life by Peter Bihr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.

How I tried (and failed at) legally buying music in Germany

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Please note: What’s about to follow is a rant. It’s also advice to music labels. Short-short version, dear content traders: Make your stuff more easily available.

This is a story of a sucky customer experience. As customers and experts alike will tell you, users like to rock, not to suck.

Buying music online is supposedly easy. Or so you’d think. And indeed it can be, as I learned from the awesome music subscription at emusic.com, where I get 30 tracks per month. (I love it!) Alas, emusic.com doesn’t have access to all the music out there, so if you’re looking for something in particular you might end up with zero search results there.

I just tried to buy the new Gnarls Barkley album, The Odd Couple. Sadly, emusic.com didn’t have it. But hey, it’s 2008 and the labels aren’t the stupid, slow & bullying giants they once were, right?

Right??

So let me try to briefly describe my journey – trying to buy a normal, major-label pop album.

First up, iTunes, as linked to from the original Gnarls Barkley website. I’m sure there it would have worked, but since iTunes writes your email address into the files you buy, I don’t really feel like buying there. I don’t know if having my email address in my music would cause any harm as of now, but I’m almost sure any kind of (even stripped-down) DRM is inherently evil and will lead to trouble at some point. There goes iTunes.

Second stop, 7digital, “The Home of MP3 Downloads”. 7digital has the album, even though the price (7.99 British Pounds) seems a bit steep for a digital download. But ok, I’m willing to cough up the price for a regular physical CD even though distribution costs equal nearly zero for the label. Why not. Hey, you need to sign up to their service instead of just buying through your credit card. Ok. Wow, even the newsletter signup is opt-in. Unless, of course, you don’t fill out all the form fields – after showing me an error message, the newsletter was suddenly ticked, I didn’t notice after having it checked beforehand and clicked, and all of a sudden had a 7digital account and a newsletter I didn’t want. As a user, I simply didn’t want to feel like being tricked into a newsletter while buying a simple music album and, slightly grumpy at this point, canceled the purchase.

Third, good ol’ amazon. The US version, amazon.com, offers The Odd Couple for an amazing $5.00. How awesome is that? I was already sold. I even agreed to download the Amazon Download Manager. For whatever reason I would need that I still haven’t figured out. After it was installed and I clicked the Buy button — nothing. Not living in the US, I’m excluded from music downloads. Books aren’t a problem, neither are electronics. But digital goods, those zeros and ones, no way.

Fourth, disappointed from the amazon.com experience, I went back to the German amazon store, amazon.de. I could have spared myself the effort: In Germany, Amazon doesn’t sell music downloads.

From there it went downhill. Where I found DRM-free Gnarls Barkley music, it was their old album, which is great, but wasn’t what I was looking for.

My conclusion? I tried to pay you money for music. I tried hard, and annoyingly long. As long as this kind of effort doesn’t allow for a legal, DRM-free download, the music industry has no reason whatsoever to complain about losing sales. As bloggers and press people learn early on: Make your stuff available. Make it easy to get it. That is the first and most important rule when trying to increase your reach and your sales, or when you simply want to get your message out. Music labels, learn this lesson. If you hide your goods or don’t bother making them more convenient to use, those regular folks out there (us!) won’t bother either.