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Archive for March, 2008

The Eye of the Beholder

March 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Canon has filed a patent application for an innovative solution to the vexed question of how to prove ownership in photography. The application describes a biometric watermarking system, which works by capturing and embedding a photographer’s biological data (i.e. iris scan) into individual images.

According to Wired’s gadget blog, Canon’s application could provide a more robust authentication system for identifying the actual author / composer / taker of a picture. It included a link to a more detailed description of Canon’s Iris Registration Mode on the Photography Bay website. (Canon iris diagram)

Key features of the system include:

  • Hardware based system (i.e. included in the device or camera)
  • Acquisition of biological information of a photographer (i.e. Iris Scan)
  • Enables copyright protection by reliably establishing the identity of the photographer
  • Supports the registration of up to five users per device
  • Allows for additional information to be added to the metadata
  • Supports batch embedding to minimise any impact on the picture taking activity / experience.

On the surface, this sounds like an excellent solution for those that make a living from photography (including those annoying, to some, paparazzi). However, I wonder if / when, and how long it would take for someone to break even this system too. I welcome any comments on this one.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

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Creative Business in the Digital Era

March 18, 2008 Leave a comment

This is the title of a day seminar, organised by the Open Rights Group (ORG), to explore some of the ways in which the commercial / creative stakeholder can build and operate a successful business model based on free / open Intellectual Property. Now there are those filthy (to some) four letter words again, but seriously, can anyone explain this fascination with “free” and “open” when it comes to future business models in the creative industries?

Is it because the dawn of the Internet age has brought with it the hitherto unthinkable prospect of getting something for what we might consider to be nothing (e.g. a tiny bit of our time / attention / information)? This is especially true for some of those business models built on things like: Open Source, free software, Open IP and free content. The above mentioned seminar provided, among other things, three veritable case studies and examples of successful business ventures based on what ORG has termed Open IP. The industries covered include:

1. Publishing Industry – The case study of blogger / author, Tom Reynolds, and Friday Publishing (presented by Tom Reynolds himself) showed how he was able to turn his blog musings into a successful book, published by The Friday Project, by making available free electronic versions of the book, alongside the commercial printed version, using the Creative Commons license.

2. Music Industry – John Buckman, the founder of music label Magnatune, presented the case study of how his company used Creative Commons licensing to build a successful creative enterprise based on the concept of Open Music and principles / mechanisms like: variable pricing; provision of music ‘source code’; support for derivative works; and making free shareable music available for non-commercial uses.

3. Automobile & Media Industry – David Bausola and Rob Myers, the creators of cult sit-com, Where are the Joneses? presented a case study on how they developed a commercial media production model based on Open IP. They produced some 90 short films published via multiple web 2.0 channels like: blogs, wikis, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter. The venture was funded by Ford and the output was published under a Creative Commons License that allows for sharing and even commercial reuse.

A common trend in the above studies is their use of Creative Commons licensing to implement innovative business models that may appear counter-intuitive to some; and rightly so, because we are in a time of change where even long established models often do not work so well (Also there is no mention of DRM). It remains to be seen if these examples will gain momentum, and more converts, to become mainstream practice instead of the unique one-offs that they are today. Do send in your comments and thoughts on the use of Open IP by creative businesses as a way for the future.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

The Business of Free!

March 10, 2008 Leave a comment

Free is never really free, as some people would have you believe, but the signs are slowly starting to point towards the possibility that they might be wrong. The fact that pundits are even considering this eventuality makes one wonder if there really could be a future for free content.

The Register reported that Trent Reznor, the leader of rock band Nine Inch Nails, released his latest album online using a stepped pricing format that ranges from absolutely free downloads to three hundred dollar packages. As you might imagine, the higher priced options include much more than high quality downloadable tracks (e.g. custom vinyl versions are included in the top end package). In the publishing industry, HarperCollins have made available for download free copies of Neil Gaiman’s book “American Gods” in the ebook format.

According to a BoingBoing article, the publisher considers it an experiment to see if free digital copies could help sell printed versions. In both cases however, the attempt to push free content has not been without technical hitches and susequent criticism. For example, the free ebooks described above also came with a software wrapper that was slow to load and did not permit offline access to the book’s content. As a result it was suggested that freely available, but illegal, copies on the web could prove to be more attractive and user-friendly for readers.

Also another Register article reported that due to the high demand for Trent Reznor’s album (both free and paid-for versions), the web download service used actually slowed down to a crawl whilst the ‘also free’ copies illegally available on bitTorrent were going like hot cakes. Despite these observations, I think it is still early days for free content business models and it just has the potential to grow and grow in the coming years, a view supported in an opinion piece by Chris Anderson, author of the popular book on “Long Tail” economics and editor of Wired Magazine.

To conclude, it is worth bearing in mind that even though creative businesses and entrepreneurs are willing to embrace, or at least toy with, the idea of free content, they still need to provide a cast iron proposition for the consumer and provide a service and experience that can compete with freely available illegal content.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.


No DRM for Audio books

March 5, 2008 Leave a comment

Several recent articles and blog postings have reported that some publishers are now starting to push DRM free audio books. Could this be the dawn of enlightenment for the publishing industry?

According to a New York Times article, major publishers like Random House have started removing the copy-protection mechanism from downloadable audio books in order to enable easy transfer to different digital devices, among other things. Other major publishers like Simon & Schuster and Penguin, (as confirmed in the Guardian), look set to follow suit, while still others like HarperCollins remain content to watch from the sidelines for the time being. Now where have we seen this before?

Reactions from the likes of Gartner’s Blog have hailed this development as a smart reaction to the way the world actually works. Now it remains to be seen if the publishing industry will do the same with ebooks and set it DRM-free, or better still, just plain free as we speculated in an earlier post.

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Note: This post was previously published on the BCS DRM Blog. Here is a link to the original post and reader comments.