Monday, August 24, 2009

Two More Small Tales from the IP Front

There are a small number of areas in which I am an expert, and intellectual property is not one of them. For expertise, I like to refer folks to Mike Masnick and Techdirt.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to move through the technology world and not get bonked on the head by IP absurdities and incongruities calling out for some solution aside from lawsuits and Nancy-Reagan-style denials.

First up is the tale of two Comcasts, and two identical HD streams of Battlestar Galactica. One of these streams comes in via the HD DVR, and the other comes in via Bittorrent.

Actually, I’m leaving a bit of information out in the setup. See, the two HD streams from SciFi channel should be more or less identical modulo commercials. But they’re not.

Due to bandwidth allocation and network management issues, the “legitimate,” paid-for SciFi channel stream is full of bitrate-spike artifacts reminiscent of late ‘90s web video. So the HD channel, the HD DVR, the HDTV gets you … a pretty awful picture the second characters start fighting, running, or blowing things up.

Then you have the Bittorrent stream, ripped from SciFi, and carried in via the same Comcast coax line. This stream looks great, and makes a customer glad to have Comcast and a HDTV. In some strange respect, this latter stream may represent a problem in the “industry’s” opinion, even though it’s clearly what the customer wants and is paying to view, and even though the bandwidth (both instant and aggregate) is a small fraction of that required for the “broadcast” stream.

Next strangeness is Grooveshark, a free, crowdsourced, on-demand streaming service that appears to live on the razor-thin edge of legality if it has a claim on legality at all.

That said, the ability to send (or post/tweet/blog/…) a link that goes directly to a particular song is an extremely potent way to virally spread the music you like. And more music loved by more fans is the core asset base for any music industry, whether it resembles the 20th-century “legacy” record industry or not.

Without Grooveshark, there is always YouTube for sharing instant, no-membership, no-login-required tracks. But unlike YouTube, Grooveshark is structured in a way that encourages more exploration of an artist, album, etc.

So anyone wanna throw into a pool for how long ‘til this service gets shuttered? Wait, that’s not quite legal either. We’ll “just say no” and it’ll all just go away.

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