Notes from the freeculture front

From this — The Future of Online Music: Why Closed Platforms Will Fail –

Alternatively, the disappearance of an open platform could spell the end of DRM technology altogether, at least for digital music. Since I believe strongly that the market in the end must and will be based on interoperable digital formats, if DRM is used to erect barriers to that goal, then there is no question it will be swept aside, and the industry may end up with what many have believed was the obvious choice from the beginning: open MP3 files.

Either way, Napster has the tools in place to adapt to whichever way the environment evolves and will remain committed to the common-sense goal of helping to shape a music industry that actually benefits consumers over the long-term.

To this — Napster goes DRM-free as iTunes war steps up –

Napster has bowed to the inevitable and stripped away the DRM from its entire catalogue of tracks, meaning music purchased through the service is Mac, iPod and iPhone compatible for the first time. The service is offering six million tracks, free of usage limitations, in high-quality 256kbps MP3 format.

(For an interesting exercise – check out the difference in tone between the Macworld (US) story and this one – the US one reads much more as a “Napster vs. Apple” tale.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Both stories point out that the significant thing here is that Napster has apparently convinced all of the major labels to take part, including Sony-BMG, something Apple has been unable to do.

Napster’s subscription service continues, with a slightly higher price tag.  The DRM-free option does not apply to the subscription service, only to songs purchased individually.

And shifting gears – from the MIT chapter of Students for Free Culture (freeculture.org) comes a fairly awesome research project – Youtomb.

From the project –

…YouTomb continually monitors the most popular videos on YouTube for copyright-related takedowns. Any information available in the metadata is retained, including who issued the complaint and how long the video was up before takedown. The goal of the project is to identify how YouTube recognizes potential copyright violations as well as to aggregate mistakes made by the algorithm.

And a little further down – they say that they became interested in the issue after YouTube announced that the takedown process would be automated.  The students wondered if this would lead to collateral damage and take-downs of videos that should fall under fair use or that should not have received any scrutiny at all.

You can’t watch the videos anymore – and the site makes it pretty clear that this is an informational/research project only that’s trying to see what kinds of videos are being challenged and to see if there are any patterns to be found.  So it’s kind of interesting to look at the comments on the TechCrunch story about it where it’s being discussed more like it’s just another startup.

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