–Is That All You’ve Got?

Last week the RIAA sued Russian music-sharing site (prior post here). is unimpressed: “AllofMP3 understands that several U.S. record label companies filed a lawsuit against Media Services in New York . . . This suit is unjustified as AllofMP3 does not operate in New York. Certainly the labels are free to file any suit they wish, despite knowing full well that AllofMP3 operates legally in Russia. In the mean time, AllofMP3 plans to continue to operate legally and comply with all Russian laws.” A wild card in’s future is whether the Russian government will effectively implement its agreement with the U.S. to shut down the site.

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That Holiday Spirit

The City of New London, Connecticut took the homes of Susette Kelo and her neighbors by eminent domain for a private waterfront development to spur economic growth. Kelo and the other homeowners challenged the taking, arguing that it was not for a public purpose. In 2005 in Kelo v. New London the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the city. The city paid Kelo $440,000 for her home, $300,000 more than its appraised value.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog (subscription required) reports that Kelo recently sent a “holiday greeting card” to current and former New London city officials. The card featured a picture of Kelo’s house and these words:

Here is my house that you did take
From me to you, this spell I make
Your houses, your homes
Your family, your friends
May they live in misery
That never ends
I curse you all
May you rot in hell
To each of you
I send this spell
For the rest of your lives
I wish you ill
I send this now
By the power of will

I curse you all . . . may you rot in hell seems, oh, disproportionate to the offense. How can Kelo top that opening sentiment in next year’s holiday greeting card? May rabid jackals rend the flesh from your decaying bones? Did this message get the bad juices out of Kelo’s system or merely prime the pump for an annual geyser of invective?

This post’s comments quickly devolve into typical Internet incivility. They do not manifest “Godwin’s Law,” which states “as [an online] discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one,” but amid amusing references to operatic curses and jabs at Kelo’s “shifting rhyming scheme” they display the ready reliance on personal attack that characterizes so much Internet discourse. Commenter seven lazily dismisses Kelo (“i am sure her trailer is irreplaceable. Get over it. A house is fungible . . . buy a shiney (sic) new trailer to live in”), and provokes a body-part insult, albeit politely couched, from commenter eight: “your problems are so deep seated that instead of your needing a psychiatrist’s help, I might suggest a proctologist instead. He’d have your whole body to work on.” Argument by faceless ad hominem attack is as old as Usenet and as new as the 2006 elections, an outgrowth of Internet culture the ubiquity of which does not diminish its ugliness.

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Worth Reading

Frank Rich takes on Time Magazine’s choice of “You–yes, you” as 2006 Person of the Year in his Op-Ed column in today’s New York Times. After skewering Time for its “sad . . editorial pratfall” he decides that “Time made the right choice, albeit for the wrong reasons . . . As our country seeks deeper into a quagmire — and even a conclusive Election Day repudiation of the war proves powerless to stop it — we the people . . . will seek out any escape hatch we can find.” For many that escape hatch is the ready distractions of YouTube (“[a]s of Friday morning, “Britney Spears Nude on Beach” had been viewed 1,041,776 times . . . The count for YouTube video clips tagged with “Iraq” was 22,783″) and the “sideshow villains who distracted us from main news events in the Middle East: James Frey, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and Judith Regan.” Check it out.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like March

The 9:00 PM Weather Channel weather for Oxford, ME (the nearest city, using that term loosely, for my present location) is 40 degrees and partly cloudy. The forecast for Christmas day is mostly sunny and 44 degrees. The forecast for Christmas week is sun, rain, temperatures in the 40s. It is December. I’m in New England, in Maine. If I wanted sunshine on Christmas I’d live in California. The lake should be iced-in, snow should blanket the ground, the temperature should be in the low 20s and falling, there a storm forming over the Great Lakes should be aimed at the heart of New England.

This weather is dispiriting. If I wanted rain on Christmas I’d live in Seattle.

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iTunes: Up or Down

I posted last week (iTunes iNtrouble?) about a report by Forrester Research that, according to The Register, Bloomberg, and others, disclosed a collapse in iTunes’ sales in 2006. The claims of trouble at iTunes “threw the cat among the pigeons,” as a boss used to say. Apple shares dropped almost 3% after Orlowski’s story, others claimed iTunes 2006 sales are “surging,” and the report’s author criticized the media for taking one sentence of the report out of context. Which figures are correct? It is hard to say since Apple does not report iTunes sales separately. Analysts look at other official Apple figures or figures from other sources to deduce iTunes sales trends and, not surprisingly, different sources yield different conclusions. For instance, the Forrester Research report is based on 2,700 debit and credit card transactions. Carl Bialik, The Wall Street Journal’s “Numbers Guy,” examined the different methods here. (Subscription required)

Commentary branched off from there. Andrew Orlowski’s December 12 article in The Register pointed to digital rights management as a cause of Apple’s declining sales, a theme reiterated by others: ” . . . the metrics are beginning to support the notion that DRM, at least in part, is actually driving people away from Apple’s music store.” (Joe Lewis, Orlowski spun another strand, predicting the advent of blanket licenses in which users subscribe to online sites for a small fee and obtain “the right to exchange music freely” and licensors (artists and labels) divvy up the pie in some equitable fashion.

Others attacked Orlowski’s article. In the “‘Collapsing iTunes Store’ Myth” characterized Orlowski’s blanket-license model as a “socialist fantasy” mandating a “Soviet style choice:”

The point was not just to create a sensationalist article, but to use it as proof for later articles that followed a preset agenda: iTunes can’t succeed, because Orlowski has other ideas in mind about how to distribute the world’s music. links to a chart and analysis from Blackfriars Marketing of Apple sales supporting the Apple press-release claim that iTunes’ sales are, um, just peachy. Absent actual Apple iTunes sales figures this dispute is mostly noise, revealing more about the use of the Internet to flog a topic into tiny pieces than about iTunes’ sales or the future of digital music. Google, for example, produced over 10,000 hits for “apple ‘itunes sales’ ‘forrester research report.'” I don’t have a dog in this hunt. I’m neither confident of iTunes’ imminent downslide nor optimistic about its continued dominance over the music download market, merely curious about how the future unfolds and how we perceive it.
It reveals something else, too: the passionate, minute interest in the present and future of digital entertainment. It’s hard to imagine a report of, say, declining sales of Sony HDTVs provoking the same type of commentary.

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Despite a US-Russian trade agreement in which Russia agreed to close legal-in-its-own mind (see prior post), the pesky Russian site continues to operate, bearing an enthusiastic “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” and running a Christmas sale. Apparently tired by the trade agreement’s failure to eliminate the site, the New York Times reported today that various recording companies filed a federal court lawsuit in Manhattan seeking an injunction to force’s closure. The lawsuit argues that the site’s “claims of legitimacy” make it more problematic than unabashedly illicit sites. states it sells music pursuant to legitimate Russian licenses, but ROMS, the Russian licensing site on which pins its copyright virtue, was expelled from an international royalty-collection association “for issuing licenses without authorization from copyright holders.”

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Don’t Know Much About History . . .

Congressional Quarterly National Security Editor asked Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked head of the Intelligence Committee, whether al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite. He said “they have both” before dashing out to the end of the limb, saw in hand, with a firm “predominantly — probably Shiite.”

Oops. Wrong. The correct answer is Sunni, “profoundly Sunni” in the words of Jeff Stein, Reyes interlocutor, who adds “the extremist Sunnis who make up al Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.”

This was not an ambush interview of a soccer mom at the supermarket. Reyes is “a kindly, thoughtful man,” a five-term member of Congress, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Speaker Pelosi chose him — “mystifyingly” according to Maureen Dowd’s column today — after a “catfight” with the “knowledgeable and camera-eager” (Dowd again) Rep. Jane Harman, D-CA. Stein questioned him as part of his ongoing quest to reveal the degree of knowledge of Middle East issues among federal policy makers.

This is what we voted for? Nancy Pelosi handles the Democratic mandate from the November elections by giving a critical job to a loyalist scaling the learning curve instead of someone with intelligence chops? Let’s hope Reyes’ staff is preparing flash cards for his Christmas stocking.

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