July 31, 2003
Privacy, and other costs of price discrimination

Andrew Odlyzko, author of such gems as Content Is Not King, has a new paper available: Privacy, economics, and price discrimination on the Internet.

Perfect price discrimination has long been raised as one of the justifications for DRM (price discrimination depends on preventing arbitrage, that prevention may be enforced by DRM-backed no-resale clauses); Odlyzko suggests that consumers tend to rebel against overt price discrimination, and will therefore be subject less to DRM than to more covert forms such as bundling. I'm not sure that reduces the dependence on DRM, since DRM and anti-reverse engineering law often enforce the bundling. Price discrimination is one explanation for Lexmark's strategy: Selling printers at a loss but making it up on toner cartridges enables Lexmark to charge use-based pricing on the package.

I think we'll also see trusted computing called into the service of perfect price discrimination. With trusted computing, everyone may be able to get (only) a customized version of software or media, at a "custom" price if a vendor chooses.

The non-monetary privacy costs are high, however. Price discrimination demands the ultimate "know your customer." We trade personal data for frequent flyer discounts, but also for an identification that may allow sellers to charge us more when they recognize we need a product or can afford to spend more. The more price discrimination becomes part of the fabric of online transactions, the less we'll economically be able to opt-out of identification schemes.

Posted by Wendy at 12:13 AM
July 27, 2003
RIAA roundup

I've been absent from here not because I've been subpoenaed by the RIAA, but preparing to take the California bar exam after moving here from New York.

If you're wondering whether your identifying information has been subpoenaed from your ISP, check the EFF database query of data gleaned from the D.C. District's PACER. ISPs subpoenaed so far:

  • 31 SBC
  • 29 Comcast Cable Communications, Inc.
  • 21 Charter Communications, Inc.
  • 15 Time Warner Cable
  • 14 RCN Corporation
  • 4 Verizon Internet Services, Inc.
  • 2 Earthlink, Inc.
  • 2 Boston College
  • 2 Adelphia Communications Corporation
  • 1 Pacific Bell Internet
  • 1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1 Loyola University Chicago
  • 1 DePaul University
  • 1 Bentley College
Wonder what the RIAA is planning to do with all that info? RIAA President Cary Sherman announces desert detention facility for suspected (and unsuspected) filesharers (via Denounce.com):
"We don't care if the person is eight, eighteen, or eighty or unaware of the law. If we catch 'em sharing files, we're sending them to jail. Not just any jail. Our jail. We don't even care if they're legally sharing their own personal music files with a family member. We don't care if they're simply transferring their own peronal music from their desktop machine to their iPod. If we catch 'em doing it, we'll be there to take them away."
On a more serious note, EFF suggests Subpoena Defense, an EFF-USIIA partnership (in conjunction with Chilling Effects).

The folks who brought us "Napster Bad," now give us Sue all the World (may not be work-safe, depending where you work).

Posted by Wendy at 11:44 AM
July 11, 2003
big gulp at 7-eleven's cultural slurpee

Xeni at BoingBoing points out that on 7/11, the retailer 7-Eleven, Inc., gives freebies to store visitors. I was amused by the number of free ® ((R), if it doesn't render in your browser) symbols in the press release: 5 Million Free Slurpees At 7-Eleven®

The company’s branded proprietary products like Big Gulp® fountain drinks, Big Bite® hot dogs, Big Eats Deli® sandwiches and Slurpee® frozen carbonated beverages, also unique in the marketplace, have become part of popular American culture.
As a matter of semiotic democracy (a term I picked up from Terry Fisher), I feel it's my obligation to use those "part[s] of popular culture" without their trademark symbols. Please join me in taking a big bite out of trademark imperialism.

Posted by Wendy at 10:45 AM
July 04, 2003
Illegal Art Comes to San Francisco

The terrific exhibit Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age has come to San Francisco. I caught it in New York, and look forward to seeing it again. (If you normally block pop-ups, don't miss illegal-art's EULA.)

Last night's panel brought together a group of critics of the current intellectual property state. Just a few quotes:

Kembrew McLeod, who trademarked "Freedom of Expression" (reg. no. 2127381): After sending the trademark application to the PTO, he got an amendment from the examining attorney. "The problem was not that the PTO found a moral objection to trademarking FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, but that I hadn't capitalized the phrase right."
Lawrence Lessig: Fair use isn't freedom. It only means "you have the right to hire a lawyer to fight for your right to create."
Rick Prelinger: "What's radical is not appropriationist art, but sending someone a bill when you're quoted in a transformative way."

Posted by Wendy at 02:36 PM
July 02, 2003
ILAW: Who gets the 'Net?

Alex Macgillivray, Glenn Brown and I did a presentation with Charlie Nesson on Content: Technology at the Stanford ILAW. We discussed what the Internet changes about the creation, distribution, and use of "content," focusing on peer-to-peer architectures and sampling.

Glenn showed some of the music and video sampling that Creative Commons licenses can facilitate; Alex suggested that Google can be seen as web-wide sampling. I showed examples of "cultural sampling" -- creative use and abuse of trademarks and copyrights -- and the legal threats they often receive, as collected by Chilling Effects. In many cases, though, lawyers' threats don't produce the desired capitulation, but a swarm of web protest instead. In those cases, I asked, who gets the 'Net? The corporations and politicians using cease-and-desists, or those using the 'Net to respond? Chilling Effects aims to empower the responders.

Slides from Who gets the 'Net? presentation viewable online.

Posted by Wendy at 01:25 PM