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12/30 2006 | 02:38 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Have you ever been in a store where the clerk hijacked the stereo? I remember once being at Yellow Rat Bastard in New York when they tortured everyone with really loud Gabba Techno ...

Most chain stores prevent such things by keeping tight control of the music being played in their retail locations. Some retailers just resort to copyright infringement and burn mix CDs for all of their stores every week.

The bigger chains stay on the right side of the law by subscribing to Muzak or DMX radio - which is why the music in a GAP store always sounds like the music at McDonalds or Barnes & Noble. Pleasant, G-rated and incredibly boring.

LA-based American Apparel has a slightly different approach to in-store music. The T-Shirt maker runs a online radio station called Viva Radio that airs shows of actual DJs instead of scientifically optimized backround music playlists.

Viva Radio contributors include ormer Rolling Stone writers, unknown bedroom DJs and folks from the hipster newsletter Flavorpill.net. The radio is avalable online 24/7, and a continuosly updated best of mix can be heard at the American Apparel stores around the world.

Two things are interesting about Viva Radio: First of all, it actually does sound good. Visiting one of their stores makes you think that the music is selected by the store clerks, and not some computer - simply because you do get to hear the work of an actual DJ.

The second aspect is tha American Apparel might save lots of money with Viva Radio in the long run. Music licensing is expensive. Muzak reportedly charges around 65 US-dollars per month and location for their background music services. The costs of transmitting a stream of your own online radio station to a new retail location are considerably lower, even if you factor in licensing fees for ASCAP and BMI.

Of course, maintaining your own station is pretty oldschool - even if it's online only. One has to wonder when we"ll see the first retailer using Last.fm to stream music to his stores. That way customers might actually be able to influence the playlist directly ...

12/27 2006 | 02:57 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The German branch of the music industry association IFPI pans to increase their lawsuits against P2P users by 20 percent next year. IFPI Germany CEO Peter Zombik told reporters that his association has sued 20.000 file sharing users since early 2004. Next year the plan to sue 1000 P2P users per month.

The German music industry has been very aggressive in pursuing P2P users. Criminal lawsuits are used as a tool to reveal the identity of suscpected file sharers. Once the industry knows their names, file sharers get slapped by an additional civil suit, which usually ends with an out of court settlement. The average settlement amount is 3000 Euro (about 4000 US dollars).

The mass persecution doesn't seem to have any lasting impact on the popularity of file sharing in Germany. Traffic management company Ipoque estimates that at nighttime 70 percent of overall internet traffic is caused by P2P applications. About 53 percent of that traffic is caused by Bittorrent. Emule, which has been traditionally strong in Germany, accounts for 43 percent.



12/26 2006 | 01:15 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Gerrman copyfight and privacy weblog Netzpolitik.org recently interviewed Lawrence Lessig about Creative Commons, DRM, performing rights organizations and the sharing economy. The whole interview is definitely worth watching, plus you can remix it as you like since it has been published unter a simple attribution license.

One question is particularly relevant for musicians who are thinking about releasing their music online:

Neztpolitik: "If I have a band and I release MP3s under a Non-Commercial license and Sony for example wants to get in contact with me but they just found my song in a filesharing or peer-to-peer network - how do they find me?"

Lawrence Lessig: We’ve been working on this general problem of how you mark digital objects with licenses and MP3s an object which we solved a couple of years ago. If the MP3 is properly marked with a Creative Commons license, that MP3 has two links in it: one is a link to a URL that is the license, like the Non-Commercial license, and the other is a linkback to an authenticating web page that actually authenticates the license.

That web page is set up by the band for example releasing the music. So I should be able to go from that MP3 back to some web page to both figure out whether in fact this is licensed in the way the person says it’s licensed and also to discover who it is that licensed it. So ideally Sony should be able to click through back to that page, see the band that’s licensed this, contact the person who indicates the contact information on that web page and say "We’d like to license this for our CD".

So, it’s very much a part of what we’re trying to do. Not just define the world between commercial and non-commercial - or at least enable that definition to be real - but also enable crossover, an easy way to get from the Non-Commercial license back to a place where somebody can talk about commercial rights if in fact that’s what the user wants to do."

Watch the video snippet of this question here, or check out the entire interview here.

Tagging your MP3s with CC licensing information is possbile with the CC Publisher.


12/25 2006 | 12:50 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Porn and TV dominate the video content that people downlaod from P2P networks, according to a new study by the NPD Group. The market researchers estimate that 60 percent of those videos are "adult content", while 20 percent are TV shows.

Mainstream movies only account for five percent, and the NPD news release ddin't give any indication on what the remaining 15 percent are all about. Music videos? Anime? The Scene episodes? We'll never know.

NPD estimates that six million US households used P2P networks to download video content in Q3 2006. The news release quotes NOD vice president Russ Crupnick stating:

"Even though right now the majority of downloaded video content is adult-film content, the amount of intellectual property stolen from mainstream movie studios, networks, and record labels will continue to rise, unless strong and sustained action is taken to prevent piracy."




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12/20 2006 | 12:57 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Yesterday Azureus announced that they will distribute a number of TV shows for the BBC via their Zudeo.com Bittorrent platform starting early next year. The announcement was a little thin on the details of the deal. For example it's not clear yet whether the shows will be for sale or advertising-supported.

One thing is certain tho from what I've been hearing about the deal: The BBC content will be copy protected with a DRM wrapper. No word on the type of DRM yet, but it is supposedly playable on most major platforms - which narrows the field quite a bit.

The BBC previously experimented with both Windows Media DRM as well as Realnetworks DRM. The broadcaster most recently used Windows Media for a field test of their iMP media player. iMP allowed a limited number of users to download and watch archived BBC content for free. The content expired seven days after it was downloaded, which got some mixed reactions from beta testers.

A less restrictive approach has been in use for the BBC Creative Archive - a content repository that makes original BBC productions and news content available under terms similiar to those of a Creative Commons license. From the Creative Archive FAQ:

"During our pilot we will be trialling a patented Video Watermarking technology where a virtual barcode will be embedded into the video clips. This invisible stamp can be read through video editing and format changes so that any video sequence can be traced back to its source. This will not interfere with legitimate users, but it will assist the BBC in the event that any use is made of the material in breach of the licence terms."

I would guess that the DRM solution for distributiong shows via Zudeo.com will be more restrictive, simply because the copyright issues of entertainment productions are usually far more complex that those of news content. They'll probably use something like Helix from Realnetworks - unless the BCC has worked out something on their own, which is entirely possible.

Either way, they should probably read up on what their own BBC World Service commentator Bill Thompson has to say about DRM:

"The content industries have a choice. They can suffer a painful restructuring as the full force of the move to digital unmakes all their plans and invalidates their business models; or they can suffer the same painful restructuring with a far smaller chance of success by alienating their one-time customers as they try to shore up their position with restrictive rights management."


12/18 2006 | 03:21 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Today the Open Relay Database (ORDB) announced that it will shut down by the end of the year. From the ORDB website:

"We regret to inform you that ORDB.org, at the ripe age of five and a half, is shutting down. It's been a case of a long goodbye as very little work has gone into maintaining ORDB for a while."

ORDB has been used to collect the IP addresses of so-called open SMTP relays - mail servers that allow people to send e-mails without prior authorization. Open SMTP relays have in the past been the major source of spam mail. System administrators used to use the ORDB database information to selectively block or pre-filter e-mail from known relays.

The nature of spam has changed substantially in the last few years however. Spammers now prefer to use P2P botnets that are controlled by Trojans like Spamthru. Secureworks analyzed Spamthru in October:

"SpamThru uses a custom P2P protocol in order to share information with other peers including the IP addresses and ports and software version of the control server, template servers, and all the peers they each know about. Control is still maintained by a central server, but in case the control server is shut down, the spammer can update the rest of the peers with the location of a new control server, as long as he/she controls at least one peer."

The SecureWorks team has since concluded that more than 73.000 PCs worldwide are controled by Spamthru.

Now anti-spam activists are thinking about beating the spammers with their own weapons. The idea: P2P tools are supposed to block spam better than solutions that rely on centrally maintained databases. Many users are having high hopes for the Okopipi project - a P2P anti-spam tool that is going to be based on Gnunet.

Okopipi is thought to be a P2P replacement for Bluefrog - a community-based, but centrally administered anti-spam project that was run by a company called Blue Security. Bluefrog shut down this May after being bombarded by a massive Denial of Service attack that also briefly knocked out Typepad.com and other websites.

The Okopipi development has stalled recently, but the developer promises to revive his effords early next year:

"I'm working on a prototype, but my work is almost at a standstill until (most likely) February. But by then I should have plenty of time for this work."



12/15 2006 | 02:01 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
What a wonderful world: Geotorrent.org is distributing free satellite imagery and other geospatial data via Bittorrent. From the site:

"Geospatial datasets, particularly imagery datasets, can be very large. It is common for a single compressed image to be many gigabytes (20+) in size. GeoTorrent.org uses bittorrent technology to alleviate the traditional bottlenecks and cost dissuaders in large dataset distribution on the Internet."

geotorrent

The site is a little over a year old by now. It is offering 37 torrents, and has facilitated the transfer of about 25 Terabyte of data. Geotorrent founder Richard Orchard also sees his platform as proof that not all P2P use is illegal:

"There is a lot of talk in the press about the evils of peer-to-peer technology. However, GeoTorrent demonstrates the benefits a practical, workable use of peer-to-peer technology. Without this technology the distribution of large datasets would not be viable."

12/14 2006 | 12:15 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
12/13 2006 | 07:28 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
All eyes are on the Venice Project beta test these days - but it's not the only P2P TV platform that's slowly coming out of stealth mode.

Tape It Off The Internet (TIOTI) just expaneded their beta test this week, inviting 10.000 lucky TV junkies who signed up for beta testing earlier. P2P Blog got invited as well, and here are some first impressions ...

The basics

First of all, what is TIOTI all about? In their own words:

"At TIOTI we keep tabs on loads of download sources across the interweb and glue that together with TV guide and episode data. Filter all that through a list of your favourites and we can keep you notified of when a new episode becomes available somewhere."

TIOTI

Still sounds pretty abstract? Well, then just think of TIOTI as a social networking community for TV addicts combined with an aggregator for TV Torrent links and topped off with a load of cutting edge design and Ajax magic. It's as if your Tivo joined Myspace - and one of his first friends wasn't Tom, but The Pirate Bay.

Finding content


Searching for shows usually gets you an overview of the seasons that have aired so far. Once you dig into those, you get an episode guide that offers you short descriptions and discussion forums for each episode. TIOTI also shows the "number of available downloads" per episode - this is essentially the number of Torrents that TIOTI found on websites like The Pirate Bay or Mininova.

Each download shows the number of available seeds and leechers, and clicking on a download link leads you to the item page on the respective bittorrent website.

TIOTI

Downloading gets much easier once you declare shows your favourites. TIOTI keeps track of new episodes for you and automatically displays them on your login front page. Clicking on those episodes opens an Ajax overlay window that displays only a few verified Torrent download links.

TIOTI

And in this case, the actual torrent files are linked, so another click basically starts up your Bittorrent client and begins the download process.

Organizing content

Some users of bittorrent community websites might ask by now: Okay, so what? Links to Torrents - what's new about that? And you're right - TIOTI wasn't very spectacular if it only was another aggregator for P2P content. One feature that makes it stick out is the way in which it makes organizing content easier.

TIOTI

The favourite list is only one example for this. TIOTI is especially great for people who want to keep track of shows in it's entirety. Did I really watch all the Weeds epsisodes this season? Is the show that is airing tonight new or a rerun? With TIOTI, you can easily keep track of the episodes you've already seen by marking them as watched. Filtering doesn't get much easier than that.

The social aspect


TIOTI has learned a lot from social networks and Web 2.0 user generated content sites. The plaform offers tagging, the complete TV guide is editable like a Wiki, and your friends are quite literally always in the picture.

TIOTI tells you about the favourite shows of your friends and recommends new content to you based on your friends general taste. The site even utilizes degrees of seperation, a concept that has been a little bit neglected in the Post-Friendster world.

TIOTI

TIOTI also offers groups to chat about TV shows, but so far this feature doesn't really seem to attract too much traction - maybe because discovering new groups isn't too easy. Some other features, like the possibility to publish Top 10 lists, don't seem to be activated just yet.

Where is this going?

TIOTI already looks great as it is, but it will likely get much more useful once its community gets bigger. The legal aspect of the platform still reamains a little bit muddy tho. The TIOTI makers apparently consider themselves safe because they don't actually operate a tracker.

This is what site cofounder Paul Cleghorn had to say regarding copyright issues in an interview with Techcrunch UK:

"We are being as careful as possible. We are based in the US and signed up the DMC safe harbour agreement and we don’t host any of the BitTorrent streams, just point to them. We are two steps removed from the torrent."

We'll see how that works out. Cleghorn told Techcrunch that his site will offer other ways to get video content as well. TIOTI is already linking to Amazon and ABC.com, and they seem to be working on the integration of download retailers like iTunes and Amazon Unboxed.

I can see this work if they keep it modular - just offer me my shows the way I prefer them. Personally I'd love to see a Tivo integration. Remotely programming your Tivo via TIOTI seems like so much more fun than the Tivo.com or the Yahoo.com channel guide.

Why? Maybe because it's not a channel guide. Other online TV destinations stick to channels and timelines and schedules - even if it's about downloads and Tivo subscriptions. TIOTI replaces all that with shows and community - and that's what's so great about this site.

12/12 2006 | 01:29 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Funny things happen if you accidentally buy the wrong package of marinated beef. You end up with a mild, yet exhausting and time consuming form of food poisoning, spend a few days inbetween bed and bathroom and start dreaming crazy stuff. Like Nazis riding on dinosaurs, and Bittorrent taking over the world. Oh wait, the latter actually happend.

Bittorent bought µTorrent, and many people apparently aren't too happy about it. Some fear that Bittorrent will end up incorporating the upcoming download store into the µTorrent client, making it memory-hungry and bloated in the process.

Bram Cohen has announced his company is monstly inteterested in µTorrent because of it's slim code and the chance to embed it into devices other than the traditional PC. It seems reasonable to assume that µTorrent and it's current user base will also be used to get the Bittorrent store going. Fortunately, that doesn't have to mean it will become bloated at all.

One interesting aspect of µTorrent is it's Web UI. Users of this extension can control their µTorrent installation from a remote PC. However, the Web UI can alsobe used to access most relevant functions of µTorrent on the same PC the client is installed.

utorrent

Bittorrent might want to think about making use of this feature for their online store. That way poeple can access the store through their regular web browser of choice while at the same time starting and monitoring downloads within that very same bowser window. µTorrent could be the thin client that is handling the work in the background.

Think of it as something like the original Audiogalaxy plus some Ajax and Bittorrent. Anyone who had the chance to try Audiogalaxy will surely remember that it's P2P client was anything but bloated.

12/09 2006 | 03:46 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Just the right thing for a Saturday afternoon: Brian Dear is channeling Bob Lefsetz, resulting in a FUCKING ANGRY rant about some random Web 2.0 startups.

"I tell you, this web 2.0 thing is the worst fucking disaster since ROLLING STONE got staples."

Hillarious.

12/04 2006 | 11:13 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Numerous websites have reported about the launch of Zudeo.com today. The site is basically the new face of Azureus, a popular multi-platform Bittorrent client. The regular Azureus website forwards to Zudeo.com now, and the new site has been completely integrated into the new version of the Azureus client software.

The strategy behind this is to take Bittorrent more mainstream by offering people an alternative to Youtube.com that is capable of distributing longer videos at higher resolutions. I've been testing the platform and the application for the last few hours under both OS X and Windows XP. Here are some of my first impressions:

Zudeo.com - stylish, but not too intuitive


zudeo.com

Zudeo.com very much has a media player kind of feel to it. It's the type of interface that you would expect within the content section of Microsoft's Windows Media Player, or maybe as part of the Rhapsody subscription service. It definitely looks good. Not as busy as most of the traditional Bittorrent websites, and not as cluttered as Youtube. The big preview pictures leave no doubt that the video quality will be better than on Flash-based sites as well.

Finding stuff on Zudeo.com isn't too easy tho. There are a few themed channels, but there is no clear system to them: One features a certain video resolution, another one a genre while a third one seems to be related to a content / advertising partnership. Zudeo features tags and basic search, but it would be good if there was a possibility to just search for tags, authors or publishers.

Violating Creative Commons licenses?

The preview pages for the individual downloads also seem somehow empty and unfinished. One would expect at least a few preview frames for downloads that can be as big as 1.3 Gigabytes - but so far users only get a short description posted by the original publisher.

Also missing is a standard field that would tell users about the rights and restrictions they face when downloading the content. Some uploaders mention that content is released under "a Creative Commons license", while others don't seem to bother clarifying such things at all.

Original rights holders might be bothered by this - especially in light of the fact that Zudeo.com doesn't have any back links to the copyright owners' web sites. Both mentioning the license and properly attributing the rights holder is a standard requirement of most Creative Commons licenses. It seems a lot of the content on Zudeo.com is currently in violation of these licensing terms.

Of course Azureus could always blame the uploaders for this and just point to the DMCA safe harbor provisions. But it seems like incorporating back-links and Creative Commons licenses into the uploading process would be a much better solution for both the site owners and rights holders.

Making it easy ain't easy

Azures tries to make Bittorrent easier for the masses by incorporating a Java applet ino the download process. The applet will detect if you have installed Azureus on your system, download and install the application in case you haven't and finally start the download of your desired video.

azureus 3.0 installation

Sounds good - but there are still a lot of technical speed bumps that might scare away average users without a lot technical experience. You might not be able to avoid this if you want to install an application on ther end user's machine - but you should at least explain it during the installation process.

Another thing that is really missing from Zudeo right now is RSS. Maybe the developers thougth it would have complicated things in their quest for new users. Maybe they wanted to get their page views up by having people come back to the platform. I really think it's a big mistake. Azureus was one of the first Bittorrent clients with RSS support, and subscribing to a show would have made perfect sense to the millions of DVR users out there.

Azureus 3.0: My mom could use it

azureus 3.0

Azureus 3.0 on the other hand is a pleasant surprise. The application features the Zudeo web interface and offers easy access to your current and past downloads - all without the typical P2P application feel. It's something even my Mom could use without a lot of explanation. Power users on the other hand can just swith to the regular Azureus interface and happily tweak their expert settings.

Big changes, big studio content


Azureus is definitely going through some big changes right now, and there is likely a lot more to come. Private sharing is supposed to be integrated into version 3.1, and some content deals seem to be on the horizon. One is already mentioned in the FAQ, even tho the show isn't up yet:

"What about that episode of Weeds on your site? Isn’t that copyright material?

Yes, however we have obtained a license from the content provider (in this case Showtime) to legally distribute the content."


Nice. I can see this work for studios who want to advertise their new shows. We'll see what else is coming to Zudeo, or Azureus for that matter.

By the way: I wouldn't be the least surprised if they dropped the Azureus name completely soon. The new Azureus startup logo definitely makes it look like the frog is on the way out.

azureus 3.0 logo

12/01 2006 | 02:43 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Here's a novel idea for the struggling music biz. Just sue technology companies - and then use the payout to cover up your losses.

Case in point: The Warner Music Group would have been one million dollars short last quarter if it wasn't for the 12 million dollars that they got from the Kazaa settlement.

(via Hypebot)