Here are a few smart things people are saying about SOPA and PIPA. Jeff Atwood gets at the key political takeaway:
So yes, join us in fighting the obvious insanity of legislation like SOPA and PIPA that threaten the open, unfettered Internet. But please, please also join us in attacking the far more pernicious problem of lobbyist money subtly corrupting our government. If we don’t deal with that, we will never stop fighting bills like SOPA and PIPA.
Y Combinator wants to invest in startups that will replace Hollywood:
The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.
And finally, Nat Torkington responds to the President’s challenge to the tech industry to find ways to fight piracy:
All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi–hell, you can even get online while you’re on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?
Rhapsody has launched a DRM-free MP3 store. This is a big improvement. Previously, their MP3s were locked in a ghetto in the Windows desktop software. Prices seem to be $1 per album higher than Amazon, even for Rhapsody subscribers.
Nine Inch Nails are giving away their new album, The Slip, completely free.
Nine Inch Nails new 2-hour, instrumental album is now available in a plethora of digital formats, and several physical, collector-friendly formats. And you can get the first nine tracks for free. And it’s all distributed under a Creative Commons license. Wow.
Amazon MP3 now has a Linux version of their album downloader. It’s annoying (and puzzling) that music stores force you to use these proprietary downloaders instead of just pushing you the files in a zip or something, but at least they are supporting a lot of platforms.
Deutshe Grammophon has launched a web store with 320kbps MP3s. I’m not sure how much of the catalog is available but several selections from NPR’s 50 essentials are there.
Radiohead’s new album, In Rainbows, is only available as a DRM-free MP3 download from their web site. You get to choose how much to pay for it. Right now the album web site is very slow but they seem to have outsourced the payment process and download to someone who can handle the load.
I think the jig is up for DRM-ed music. Amazon has launched their MP3 store with 2 million indie and major label tracks, all DRM-free. You can still beat the price at eMusic and Audio Lunchbox but you can’t beat the selection.
eMusic has launched DRM-free audiobooks at $9.99 for two books. The selection looks pretty good, too.
Rhapsody is now selling DRM-free MP3s from Universal Music Group. Bizarrely, they are only available via the Windows-only desktop software, not the web site. On the plus side, they actually have one listing of all of the available MP3s, unlike the other stores selling the Universal MP3s. You still can’t search the MP3 offerings, though.
The Wal-Mart music store is now selling DRM-free downloads for 94 cents per track or $7.88 per album. They are 256 kbps CBR MP3s. Boing Boing reports that they were blocking non-Windows machines but I didn’t have any trouble buying an album from Linux.
Universal is the latest record company to try selling its music with no DRM. The music will be available through several music stores, but not iTunes, on a trial basis through January. Boing Boing says the files will be MP3s but the Times article doesn’t say anything about format.
Tim Quirk details how the new Internet radio royalty rates will cripple Rhapsody’s radio stations. The rates take effect in two days and it seems that the only thing you can do about it is contact your representatives and try to get the Internet Radio Equality Act through Congress.
Update: Net radio got a bit of a reprieve yesterday when SoundExchange told Congress that it wouldn’t enforce the new royalty rates on Sunday and would instead negotiate new rates with web broadcasters. What the new rates will be and how they will be determined in the future is still up in the air.
I listened to Cory Doctorow’s reading of A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection by Peter Gutmann. There are so many jaw-dropping passages in this paper that I thought a little collection of quotes would be useful for people who don’t want to read the whole thing.
Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called “premium content”, typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it’s not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server).
In fact so far no-one has been able to identify any Windows system that will actually play HD content in HD quality, in all cases any attempt to do this produced either no output or a message that it was blocked by content protection.
In fact, Microsoft is imposing a higher standard of security for premium content than what’s been required in the past for any known secure computing initiative proposed for protecting data classified at TOP SECRET or TS/SCI levels… Just to make this point clear, the level of security that Vista is trying to achieve to protect video and audio is more extreme than anything the US government has ever considered necessary for protecting its most sensitive classified data.
In the introduction, I predicted that Vista’s content protection, the entire mass of complex and troublesome technology covered in this writeup, would last less than a week once the hackers got hold of it. Sure enough, shortly after Vista’s release, it was broken by an individual who was annoyed by the fact that he couldn’t play back his legitimately-purchased HD-DVDs on his legitimately-purchased HD-DVD player… As a result, both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray content can now be decrypted and played without image downgrading or blocking by the OS, and unprotected content is already appearing in the usual locations like BitTorrent streams. The fact that the legally-purchased content wouldn’t play on a legally-purchased player because the content protection got in the way was the motivating factor for the crack. The time taken was about a week. As a result, all of the content-protection technology (at least for HD-DVDs and Blu-Ray discs) is rendered useless. All that remains is the burden to the consumer.
Other Music have launched their digital music store with DRM-free indie music downloads. Go grab yourself a copy of Neon Bible or Destroyer’s Rubies.