The Economic plus or minus of Fair Use

Fair use protects competition by guaranteeing that companies can reverse engineer software so that their products will work and ‘interoperate’ with the products of their competitors. Fair use guarantees journalists, scholars and ordinary citizens the right to quote and abstract from others’ writings, and so buttresses basic rights of free expression. And fair use guarantees that technological innovations such as the Internet itself, whose very function is to copy information from one place to another, can operate normally without running afoul of copyright law. Fair use thus helps to ensure that the benefits of copyright accrue to the public. It produces a multiplier effect without which we would all be poorer.

from Fair Use in the US Economy: Economic Contribution of Industries Relying on Fair Use (pdf), a report prepared for the Computer & Communications Industry Association. Commentary from Ars.

Is it that clear cut? Are most illegal downloaders expressing a desire for a fairer use, or are they simply digital criminals? Although the argument can be made the the music, tv and film industries are slow to adapt to competition in the digital era, they are, by at least some perspectives, making less money. Maybe a more relevant question is, will this issue be resolved through legislation, or simple economics consequences of the “darknet?”


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Filed under Business 2.0, Digital Commons, Fair Use

Bandwidth hogs push networks for greater capacity solutions

The rapid growth of online videos, music and games has created a new Internet sin: using it too much. Comcast has punished some transgressors by cutting off their Internet service, arguing that excessive downloaders hog Internet capacity and slow down the network for other customers….As Internet service providers try to keep up with the demand for increasingly sophisticated online entertainment such as high-definition movies, streaming TV shows and interactive games, such caps could become more common, some analysts said.

from the Washington Post aricle Shutting Down Big Downloaders

Peer-to-peer is under the gun again. Faced with a surge in network usage, internet service providers are grumbling about rising traffic levels. The increase is driven so far mostly by internet video from YouTube and similar services, which don’t actually employ P2P technologies. But ISPs say the looming growth of true peer-to-peer applications threatens to overwhelm them. Some ISPs have even started sniffing out P2P traffic on their networks and curbing it, either slowing file sharing to a trickle or bringing it to a halt.

Responding to this adversarial relationship, some P2P companies are adopting a posture of engagement with ISPs, and have formed a new industry working group to help broker relationships that, they say, will enable ISPs to better manage and distribute traffic loads on their networks….P4P’s plan: Get ISPs and P2P-technology providers working together, to ensure that P2P traffic continues to flow and that users of P2P technologies don’t overload ISPs’ networks with too much sharing.

from the WIRED article P2P-2-ISP Peace Pipe Could Ease Bandwidth Crunch

Researchers have found a way to enforce good manners on file-sharing networks by treating bandwidth as a currency. The team has created a peer-to-peer system called Tribler in which selfless sharers earn faster upload and download speeds but leechers are penalised.

from the BBC article File-sharers forced to play fair

P2P traffic is dominating the Internet these days, according to a new survey from ipoque, a German traffic management and analysis firm. ipoque’s “preliminary results” show that P2P applications account from anywhere between 50 percent and 90 percent of all Internet traffic.

from Ars Technica

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Filed under Networks, P2P (Peer to Peer), User generated content


On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company’s machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location of the computer used to make the edits. In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself. And it is far from an isolated case. A new data-mining service launched Monday traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations.

Read more from WIRED, the BBC and the New York Times and see which government agencies and corporations are editing Wikipedia articles about themselves and what articles are currently undergoing intensive editing.

Previously from WNM: Wikis and Wikipedia: Who’s writing this stuff?, Look up ‘Payola’ in Wikipedia and Evaluating Wikipedia’s credibility

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Filed under The Politics of New Media, Wiki

What does the Internet inherit from TV and what does that say about us?

The designers and programmers of internet settings may indicate that images and events are distributed in real time and as they happen, the technologies are alive, and that the form is unique, but television and internet sites employ similar narratives about liveness, intimacy, and spatial entrances. Internet renderings of liveness suggest that representations are unmediated because images and texts are presented at the same time as the viewer is watching. This makes the various mediated and constructed aspects of the technologies, including the continuation of normative beliefs about gender, race, and sexuality, easier to ignore. Considering how television structures the viewer, historical and critical writings about television liveness, and narratives about internet liveness, and applying this literature to webcams and other internet settings, indicates that these internet renderings are a part of ongoing cultural conventions and provides methods to resist the more stereotyped aspects of these representations.

Description for Michele White’s Television and Internet Differences by Design from Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies (2006)

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Filed under Media Evolution, Technology, our Mirror, When New Meets Old

What’s new if new is cliche

This article reports on Web 2.0, the end of cyberspace, and the internet of things. It proposes that these concepts have synergies both with the current fashion for modifying physical objects with the features of virtual objects, as evidenced in O’Reilly’s MAKE magazine and similar projects, and with the potential technologies for collective intelligence described by Bruce Sterling, Adam Greenfield, Julian Bleecker and others. It considers Alex Pang’s research on the end of cyberspace and asks whether the ‘new’ of new media writing will have any meaning in a world that is updated by the microsecond every time there is fresh activity in the system.

Description for Sue Thomas’ The End of Cyberspace and Other Surprises from the Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies (2006)

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Filed under Media Evolution, Virtual Reality, web 2.0

When Sierra Leone crumbled it’s citizens created a borderless virtual nation

The nation-state of Sierra Leone crumbled during the 1990s. A decade-long civil war destroyed the state and brutalized the national imaginings. Despite the lack of institutional structure, some members of its society chose to keep the nation alive through discourse on a listserv, an email forum called Leonenet. Using a multi-methodological approach that incorporated content analysis, interviews with cultural informants, ethnography and participant observation, the findings of the study reported in this article indicate that list members had created a virtual nation, defined as any community that communicates in cyberspace, whose collective discourse and/or actions are aimed towards the building, binding, maintenance, rebuilding or rebinding of a nation. Leonenet was a diasporic communicative space where Sierra Leone’s state-related symbols were generated and then held in conceptual escrow, waiting for the institutional structure to return.

Abstract from Robert Tynes’ Nation-building and the diaspora on Leonenet: a case of Sierra Leone in cyberspace from the journal of New Media & Society

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Filed under Connection/Isolation, Virtual Communities

Digital holdouts just don’t see the Internet as all that valuable

So, if you are in your 50’s, have limited disposable income, find modern gadgetry hard to use and of questionable relevance, what is going to turn you into a home broadband subscriber? Two frequently suggested strategies—reducing prices and improving infrastructure availability—are likely to have limited impacts. Most research on broadband adoption suggests price is not a large factor in the purchasing decision….The passage of time has taken care of a portion of the gap in broadband adoption. The passage of time may well take care of the rest, but the likely time horizon will test the patience of many stakeholders in the broadband debate. To be sure, more competition, lower prices, and greater availability of faster infrastructure will be welcomed by American consumers. By themselves, however, they are not likely to be enough to lure non-online users off the digital sidelines. Pew Internet Project research makes it clear that non-users don’t yet see the benefits of home high-speed access. To reach the underserved, policymakers might consider more aggressive and targeted outreach efforts that educate hard-to-reach populations about the benefits of online connectivity.

Read Why It Will Be Hard to Close the Broadband Divide from the Pew Internet & American Life project. Previously from WNM: Digital Divide evolving from a question of access, to one of social skills


Filed under Digital Divide