DRM “Dead” for Streaming Music Too?

19 08 2008

EFF’s Fred von Lohman and Seth Schoen wrote a post a few days ago that landed with surprising silence in the blogsophere. Using a packet sniffer and a quick look into the “temp” file on a PC, the two discovered that iMeem and LaLa, two of the hottest new streaming music services, are not using DRM on their files. Although the files appear to users as streams, they are actual fully downloaded, open files. They write:

“Yet another nail has been driven into DRM’s coffin, this time for streaming audio (PCPro has a nice overview of the state of DRM for digital music).

Two of the leading on-demand streaming music sites, iMeem and LaLa, are not using DRM on their audio streams, instead sending the music as MP3s dusted with a dash of obfuscation. This is significant because both sites have been licensed by all the major record labels — the very same record labels that were just last year pushing Congress to require DRM on all noninteractive webcasts. So it looks like the RIAA companies have changed their minds, dropping DRM requirements for the on-demand streaming music services.”

It’s unclear whether this “obfuscation” that Von Lohman describes tricks the majority of users who think they couldn’t, for example, move their iMeem files to an iPod. But either way, it does not rise to the level of a “technical protection measure” under the DMCA. So, to all of the future music services developing innovative and new music download models (I hope). You may or may not have deals with the labels (yet), but don’t worry too much about being forced to lock up files or build systems around expected TPMs. DRM is on its way out the door, not just for retail downloads in iTunes, but everywhere.



What’s an Open Business?

31 07 2008

The hot question of the day at the i’Summit iSummit in Sapporo Japan is what is an “open” business?

Thus far the participants in this current think tank session have constructed a list of elements:

Social
Access
Profitable
Open license
Transparent
Fair
Community
Two-way feedback (reciprocal)

Is this list helpful in defining the concept? Do the elements cohere? What, for instance, is the difference between an “open” business and a socially responsible business? Does Adobe’s Open Screen Project count? To me, an open business is one that is interoperable in its design and doesn’t make money only through restricting access to goods.

There’s significant debate about whether defining this concept is a useful endeavor. Some say that the iCommons community should write a “how to” document for entrepreneurs that would help them set up open business. Others think CC should go far as to create a certification system and let business apply to be open business “certified.” (Much like the GPL certification) Half the group has dissented completely and thinks we’re too late. They are arguing that the concept of “open business” is already being exploited and used for marketing purposes. It has no meaning. (Think of the phrase “green business” or even the word “organic.”)

I haven’t developed my own view on this yet, but I thought I’d write this up as a work in progress to see if others have any thoughts. To me, this discussion is about more than just defining buzz words. It’s key because it suggests that people within the creative commons and free culture community are no longer scorning all things commercial and insisting on non-profit distribution models. Instead they are trying to bring the innovations in open licensing to the realm of business to create new standards there as well.



Knol: Wikipediaing for Money?

24 07 2008

Yesterday Google launched Knol, a new collaborative encyclopedia project. At Knol, small teams of authors write articles together. They can monetize the work through AdSense rev-sharing and retain full control to pre-approve any changes submitted by other users. Knol is being presented as Google’s Wikipedia competitor , a show of Google’s continued entry into the content provider space.

But there’s something else I find fascinating about this project…

Knol gives us an opportunity to conduct a fabulous experiment. It pits Wikipedia, an open, voluntary encyclopedia project against one where contributors are paid and retain full control over their entries. It’s the market model vs. open, peer production.

Which model of knowledge production will be most successful? For years, we’ve marveled at the amount of time and participation that Wikipedia generates. But we’ve never had the opportunity to examine how a similar project might fare if all contributors were paid. Knol might give us a glimpse into this alternative world.

We’ll get a chance to see who participates, why they participate, and what’s ultimately produced.

If the homo economicus model accurately describes human behavior, Knol should be poised to generate more and better content

But I have my doubts. Lets see…