September 26, 2007

Which is more open: the Nokia N95 or the iPhone?

Filed under: musings, open, phone — wseltzer @ 6:16 pm

Right in the middle of my New York Times today (yes, I still read it, and on paper) are two full-page color ads for Nokia’s N95, with the taglines “Comes with unlimited potential. We believe the smartest devices should keep getting smarter. That’s why we’ve left the Nokia Nseries open to enhancement, experimentation, and evolution. Open to anything.” url (warning, flash-heavy)

I love it. Just the stance toward user innovation I’d like to see more companies adopt. They’ve borrowed a few pages right out of von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation, mashed up with Benkler’s Wealth of Networks and Zittrain’s Generativity.

This contrasts, of course, with the advertised nature of the iPhone, locked to Apple’s apps and carrier. But we’ve also seen that within weeks of the iPhone’s launch, hackers have opened it, unlocked it, and built scores of apps.

So I wonder, how does the level of independent development on the N95, and Symbian, which powers it, compare with that on the iPhone? The N95 retails for $749 in the U.S., limiting the community likely to embrace it. Apple’s price drop brought the iPhone to $400; would it have engendered the same creativity if left at $600? Does Apple’s “cool” factor do more to bring in the hackers than Nokia’s; are touch gestures more of a draw than built-in GPS?

Or am I just seeing one side of the U.S.- Europe cellphone divide, and do Symbian developers prevail abroad where they’ve had more access to unlocked phones and fewer lock-subsidies to compete with?

Has Common Sense Flown the Coop: No copyright claims to book prices

Filed under: ICANN, law, open, privacy — wseltzer @ 4:19 am

The Crimson has been reporting on the Harvard Coop’s silly claims of “intellectual property” against those who come to the bookstore to compare prices. It’s escalated all the way to calling the cops, who wisely refused to throw students out of the store.

A terrific clinical student at the Berkman Center helped us to write an op-ed on the limits of copyright, which the Crimson ran today:

We’re not sure what “intellectual property” right the Coop has in mind, but it’s none that we recognize. Nor is it one that promotes the progress of science and useful arts, as copyright is intended to do. While intellectual property may have become the fashionable threat of late, even in the wake of the Recording Industry Association of America’s mass litigation campaign the catch-phrase—and the law—has its limits.

Since the Coop’s managers don’t seem to have read the law books on their shelves, we’d like to offer them a little Copyright 101.

Copyright law protects original works of authorship—the texts and images in those books on the shelves—but not facts or ideas. So while copyright law might prohibit students from dropping by with scanners, it doesn’t stop them from noting what books are on the shelf and how much they cost. does students a real service by helping them to compare prices efficiently. Harvard should support them in their information-sharing efforts, rather than endorsing the Coop’s attempts to cut off access to uncopyrightable facts.

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