My letter to my representation regarding PIPA/SOPA

In case you haven’t heard, there is currently a pair of bills being discussed by both sides of congress that, if passed, will have a profound effect on how the Internet works and enable tools for the government to censor the Internet in profound ways.  The U.S. Senate’s version of the bill is called the “Protect-IP Act of 2011” or PIPA.  PIPA’s U.S. House counterpart is called the “Stop Online Privacy Act of 2011” or SOPA.  Watch this video (YouTube) to get an idea about the goals of these bills.  These bills are bad for the Internet and bad for free speech.  Below is the text of a letter I sent to my congressional representation encouraging them to understand the ramifications of the bills and fight against them.  I encourage you to contact your representation as well.  You can steal as much from my letter as is useful.

 

[Salutation],

[Greeting and introduction].  I am concerned about a bill that is in progress in the U.S. Senate [U.S. House].  That bill is the PROTECT IP Act or PIPA [Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA]. While I understand that the stated goal of this act is to protect intellectual property, the mechanisms that this bill will enable will break the Internet’s openness and present the government with revolutionary tools to enact censorship on a platform that should be open and free.  The technology proposed to support this bill is not that different from that being used in China, North Korea, and Iran where free speech is stifled.  While the goals of this act may be different than those of oppressive governments, we should not allow our government to seize such controls for any reason.

In addition to the technical issues this bill would create, there are additional financial burdens that will be placed on businesses.  Businesses face the threat of increased costs to ensure compliance with the provisions of PIPA [SOPA].  Along with these costs are increased legal fees that could result from the frivolous lawsuits that this bill could enable.   While businesses of all sizes will be affected by this new financial burden, it will no doubt have the greatest effect on small and medium businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy and drivers of innovation.

The United States is built on the freedom of speech.  The Internet is the greatest enabler of free speech.  If choosing between protecting intellectual property and free speech, I hope that all Americans would choose free speech.  I believe that there are ways to protect intellectual property without hampering free speech.  American business is full of brilliant minds, and there is no reason we cannot find a way to solve this problem without damaging the single greatest technological innovation of our time.

I have seen too many people in your position refuse to understand the seriousness of this bill.  Many senators [congressmen and congresswomen] refuse to take time to understand the basic ideas of how the Internet works and allow this bill to move along based purely on their own ignorance.  Please don’t allow this attitude to infect you.  This is a serious matter that will have a profound effect on the Internet’s infrastructure for this and future generations.  Please take time to understand what PIPA [SOPA] really means for the freedom of speech and the Internet and use your office to oppose it.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Kevin L. Dayton

Google to acquire Motorola Mobility

Major news to start the week.  Google will dish out $12.5B for Motorola’s mobile phone making arm.  This signals the search giant’s first significant commitment to hardware in the mobile space.

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.

— Google Press Release

What does this mean for the likes of Samsung, LG, and other Android-dependent manufacturers? I guess time will tell.

via This is my next

Matt Drance on Google’s patent lamentations

From Apple Outsider:

It is a textbook example of why you don’t open your mouth before you’re ready to talk. This was a chance to set the record straight and turn the tables in this debate, and Google blew it. Most of the mistakes made were simple, avoidable failures of communication.

Like Drance, I agree with Google’s core premise that the patent system seems broken, but they failed to articulate the core issues and came off as whiny losers under the current rules of the game.

Music publishers want more of your money

Imagine that: Someone in the record industry wants more money.  Shocking, I know.  According to cnet news, music publishers are the latest victims of the digital age.  Apparently, they make pennies on the dollar for tracks sold on iTunes and in other digital music stores.

To be fair, I don’t know the complete business model for digital music well enough to say whether music publishers are or are not getting screwed.  I do know if these folks are going to get paid more, it’s coming out of our pockets, and as the article points out, the outcry is just now starting to settle from Apple’s move a few months ago to implement the first iTunes Music Store price increase.

The kicker to me is that they want to come after other music “sources” in iTunes as well.  These include music in movies and TV shows, streaming radio, and even the 30-second previews for songs in the the store.  This just seems a bit greedy to me.

“In the U.S. while we do get paid a mechanical (licensing fee) from ITunes [sic], we are not getting any performance income from Apple yet,” David Renzer, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, said in interview late last month with entertainment-industry publication, Encore. “(On iTunes) you can stream radio, and you can preview (tracks), things that we should be getting paid performance income for.

“Also, if you download a film or TV show,” Renzer continued, “there’s no performance (payment) and typically there’s no mechanical (payment) either.”  (from cnet)

It might be true that they don’t get paid for these things, but I really don’t think they should come digging around the digital consumer for money.  Talk to the studios about the movie and TV show issue.  Talk to the radio stations about streaming radio.  As for the 30-second previews, just give it up.  We are already paying up to $1.29 per track.  Keep pushing this agenda and a lot of people will fall back on much cheaper ways to acquire music, TV shows, and movies, which result in zero royalties.

Oh, and they are so upset that they are going to ask congress to intercede.  Good thing congress doesn’t have anything on its plate right now.

The Google Voice iPhone app saga goes to the FCC [Updated]

USA Today is reporting (via MacRumors) that comments are being filed with the FCC regarding Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice app in the iPhone App Store.  Apparently, Apple is not the only company facing questions.  Google may have some questions to answer on the related subject of the crippled version of Skype on their Android operating system.

Why: Consumers who use Android, the Google-developed operating system for wireless devices, can’t use Skype, a leading Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. A pioneer in free Internet calling, Skype allows you to talk as long as you want without draining cellphone minutes.

Android users get Skype Lite, a watered-down version of the original that routes calls over traditional phone networks — not the Internet. As a result, long-distance calls are still cheap or free, but cellphone minutes are gobbled up every time a Skype Lite call is made…

…Google’s explanation would seem to suggest that T-Mobile requested the block on Skype, but the carrier says that’s not the case. “T-Mobile has not asked Google to block that service,” says spokesman Joe Farren, referring to original Skype [sic]. — USA Today

In both of these cases, it is clear that neither the carriers nor OS providers want to take the blame.  Maybe the FCC can break this problem open and make progress, but as stated before, “consider me skeptical.”

UPDATE: Apple says it acted alone in rejecting the app.  Something still smells fishy here, but if this is the case, bad Apple!

cnet: CBS to run video ad in magazine this fall

This is pretty cool but could turn out to be as annoying as greeting cards that play music.

The September 18 issue of the Time Inc.-owned magazine will feature the first video ad to appear in print, George Schweitzer, CBS marketing president, said Wednesday at a press conference at the company’s headquarters here.

The ad will be launched in partnership with PepsiCo to promote Pepsi Max soda and the TV network’s Monday prime-time lineup. Not everyone will be seeing it: the ad will appear in a magazine insert sent to subscribers in the New York and Los Angeles areas–an edition without the video chip will be sent to subscribers elsewhere and show up on newsstands.

“Measure twice, cut once”

In a story on NewsOK.com about the pending construction of the Devon Tower, Oklahoma City’s first legitimate skyscraper, I found this quote refreshing:

[Klay] Kimker, Devon’s vice president of administration, said he learned from construction of Liberty Tower that if one doesn’t have time to do things right the first time, then that person will face spending even more time fixing mistakes once the task is done.

You might be thinking, “what is so interesting about common sense like that?”  Unfortunately, I don’t think this is common sense any more.  In a time when any time after right now is late, proper planning is usually one of the first areas to get cut off the timeline.  Unfortunately, I’ve been a part of many projects with a “do it fast, fix it later” mindset.  So it was nice to read that the idea of taking your time and getting it right isn’t completely forsaken.

Will China make its currency convertible? Or would it rather own the United States?

China is considering making it’s currency convertible and thus, potentially open for trade.  This blog post by Tim Collard of The Daily Telegraph (London) looks at why they are considering this, but more importantly, the frightening reason for Americans that they are in no hurry to do so.

Yes, the non-convertibility of their own currency does mean they are forced to maintain massive dollar reserves; but they are in no hurry to replace the dollar with the renminbi as a reserve currency. It would look good: but they can live with massive holdings of US Treasuries, warming their hearts with the thought that democratic (small “d”) irresponsibility is fast turning the USA into a wholly owned subsidiary of the [People’s Republic of China].

Regarding Google Voice, the iPhone, and rejection

Today has brought yet another big fuss about Apple rejecting an iPhone App Store submission.  This time it wasn’t some random developer but none other than Google.  The app was a companion to the Google Voice (GV) service, which ironically, I just received an invitation to yesterday.  The blame and outrage has been pretty evenly spread between Apple and AT&T and rightly so.  The problem I have with some of the commentary out there now is that everyone seems to be making assumptions and illogical leaps to back up their claim on who is at fault.  For example GigaOm writes:

…Some allege that Apple is doing this at AT&T’s behest.

That is just flat-out wrong: If it were true, then Google Voice would be banned on BlackBerry devices that use AT&T as well. As of this morning, everything is working fine on my AT&T-connected Bold (except for the usual dropped calls, of course). And are people forgetting that you need AT&T’s voice network to send and receive Google Voice calls?

The problem with this is that you can get the GV app for the BlackBerry directly from Google.  There is no app-store-like gatekeeper in the case of the BlackBerry when it comes to this app.  I’m not sure how AT&T could ban this app on a BlackBerry.  Perhaps there is a simple answer to this that I am unaware of, but on the surface, I don’t think there is a way.  The same argument could be made when the Sling Player debacle is brought up for comparison.

This statement also attempts to minimize AT&T’s concern based on the fact you still must use AT&T lines to dial.  This is true, but it doesn’t account for those precious SMS messages for which AT&T likes to charge way too much.  If Google can offer unlimited text messages for free, most people would drop that $20 per month plan they have with Ma Bell.

I also would not underestimate the power that GV takes away from the carrier as a reason for AT&T to disapprove.  GV gives the end user much more control over their telephone number than the typical mobile service does.  With GV, I can choose which phones ring when someone calls.  I can mark annoying callers as spam.  I can change mobile numbers any time I want, and once I update GV, it is completely transparent to those calling on my GV number.  It really takes number portability to the next level in my mind.

It also takes the visual voicemail concept a step further by not only giving access to voicemail in an e-mail-like view, but also adding voicemail transcription as well.  Perhaps this didn’t sit to well with Apple who might see this as Google one-upping them on their own home field.  This along with the fact that Google is one of Apple’s up and coming rivals in the modern wireless handset wars could have lead to Apple’s disapproval.  This fact was not lost on John Gruber of Daring Fireball:

And, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, I’m not sure the decision is entirely unreasonable. Don’t think about it in terms of Apple’s relationship with its carrier partners, but instead think about it in terms of Apple’s competition with Google. Google Voice is a mobile phone service provided by the maker of one of the biggest competitors to the iPhone OS. What if Google Voice were instead Microsoft Voice? And what if Windows Mobile were as modern and competitive as Android? Would you be as surprised then that Apple is discouraging iPhone owners from using the service? Just saying.

According to Gruber’s sources, it was AT&T in the end that killed this app likely for many of the reasons stated above, but I’m not inclined to let Apple off the hook so easily.  In the end it is the Apple iPhone and App Store, so at least some of the blame has to come back to them.  GV has the opportunity to be a game changer, and the iPhone had the potential to showcase it well, but for now, it’s just another case of a disappointing App Store rejection and a stifling of innovation on state of the art technology.