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Consumer Networking

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Consumer Networking2005-12-01 22:58
21 comments
by Flemming Funch

Wouldn't it be nice if "consumers" were well enough networked and well enough informed that companies just can't get away with screwing them over?

We seem to be getting closer, probably thanks to blogs more than anything else.

Sony BMG released more than 20 million CDs that, if you played them on your windows computer, would install a Root Kit, which would hide itself in your operating system, mess with what you were doing, and report back your activities to Sony. A Root Kit is a hacker technology, for installing hostile programs on your system, while they remain undetected and trick the system into making it look like nothing at all is going on. Sony did that deliberately, as DRM (Digital Rights Management), to try to make sure you didn't violate the rules they'd like you to follow. Remember, we're just talking about a normal audio CD, which you wouldn't expect to install anything in your system. But it installed some very bad stuff, making your system further vulnerable to attacks. Around 500,000 networks were compromised by this hack. Read the timeline here. Because of a storm of bad publicity and a number of class action lawsuits, Sony finally recalled the CDs, although they didn't give more than a very wimpy apology.

The good news is that the debacle probably set back the deployment of DRM several years. Which is good for you, as DRM basically just means that the big music and film companies want to break your equipment so it only does what they'd like it to do, if any of their CDs or DVDs are involved. And most likely Sony will take a big dip in sales because of this. And maybe they'll start getting the message that their customers don't want crap like that, and that enough of them are sufficiently well-informed and loud enough to say so.

The Grateful Dead isn't exactly a big corporation, but they have been a shining icon for file-sharers everwhere. They always allowed fans to make their own recordings of their concerts and to share them freely. And that was part of what kept them having a large following for a long time, and probably a major driver behind their commercial enterprise. But recently their company commanded some websites to remove archives of their music, apparently because Jerry Garcia's widow had changed her mind or something. Which caused a big uproar, and deadheads immediately and loudly started boycotting all things Grateful Dead. Read here. And, now, today they apparently changed their mind and reinstated the archives they had asked to get removed.

And, now, also from the last few days there is this story. An avid amateur photographer wanted to buy a $3000 camera, and an online store in New York called PriceRitePhoto had the best price. But what followed was an outrageous sequence of abusive experiences with them, being threatened and blackmailed in an assortment of ways. But this guy had the guts to post the whole thing on his blog. Which got a LOT of attention, Slashdot, BoingBoing, Digg, and many other sites. And a lot of help too. And despite lots of, probably fake, positive reports on various review sites, it turned out that lots of people had similarly horrifying experiences with that company.

Be sure to read the update section after his account. First more outrageous threats. But then, in brief, in the course of two days it seems that the camera vendor has gotten de-listed from several of the main price listing sites, and that their ISP is considering terminating their account for illegal activity. And the owner of the company called the guy and was suddenly very nice and apologetic, and said the responsible employee was fired. Nothing like seeing one's business go down the drain to get somebody's attention.

What all of this means is that it is a lot harder for a company to do something misleading, unethical, sleazy, illegal, or just unpopular. OK, not all incidents are going to get this kind of publicity, but enough of them are to create an impact.


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21 comments

2 Dec 2005 @ 04:14 by SadHippie @67.180.92.15 : The death of the Dead
This is such a slap in the face to Jerry's memory and to John Perry Barlow, who besides being one of the lyricists for the Dead is a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that has fought tooth and nail to keep the internet free and open, created the notion of "creative commons" and helped establish the internet archive.

This is Bob Weir's doing, not Phil Lesh's.
Being that Bob was raised in Atherton, Ca., an enclave for the superrich next to Palo Alto (Larry Ellison lives in Atherton), Bob is just coming home to roost.

Many hippies would like to think that because the Dead made the music that they love, that the Dead are hippies too. That might have been the case for Jerry and Phil (an artist with an honorary PhD from Stanford), but Bob was born with a diamond-encrusted silver spoon up his rectum. Of course, they were all wealthy because of the band, but they were artists first and foremost. I know a few folks that know Bob, including somebody from RatDog, his solo band. Bob Weir is and always was a spoiled rich kid for whom this whole "strange trip" always was about the money. He has the arrogance to match. Of course now that they are taking a hit on concert tickets, they (Bob) are trying to monetize their recordings.

As is, Bob Weir is just milking the last of the Dead legacy dry, and touring with Jerry "sound alikes" as opposed to really moving forward with his music. He could easily live for years on end on the money he has and never feel a pinch or keep on making a name for himself as an artist with current art. He'd rather
rest on his often coked-out (this I say from talking to folks that know) ass and rehash old songs that will never be the same because Jerry isn't alive to give those songs (even Bob's songs) their magic. He just doesn't have the creative juice to be original and relevant anymore, if he ever did. Without Jerry's tutelage, it's not obvious he would have lasted long enough in public memory to have the option of pissing on his fans 30 something years later.

Bob betrayed his fans years ago, and only now they are catching on.  



2 Dec 2005 @ 06:52 by jstarrs : Great article, Ming...
...many thanks.
Power to the People!  



2 Dec 2005 @ 10:41 by jazzolog : Columbia Records
is the oldest continually used brand name in recorded sound, dating back to 1888, sez Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Records ---and just look at that lovely vintage label on the page: enough to make any collector drool. I think my oldest 78 is a Columbia---from 1919, or something like that, with an adolescent Jimmy Durante a sideman on piano. It was Columbia Masterworks and discs by Benny Goodman that got me going into music in the first place. In 1948 they introduced the LP...and it was heaven on earth. A couple years later they started the Columbia Record Club, which delivered records to your door at wonderful prices and gave us lots of free stuff besides---and unissued sessions by jazz guys. I was a member for 50 years. But Sony came---and then BMG. This year they merged all the Columbia Record Club people into BMG's club, of which I already was a member. They sweetened the deal with free stuff too, so I didn't bitch too loud---however, I wrote Sony/BMG a long letter of reminiscence about how important the Columbia Record Club had been to me back in the day. No reply.  


2 Dec 2005 @ 16:22 by ming : Media
They should probably realize how valuable it is to them that they have loyal and long term customers and supporters. They can't just switch the names and the brands around to something that suits their new corporate structure, and still expect that their customers still will be loyal. And at the same time they need to move with the times, learn to live with a world where we easily can share files between ourselves, so they need to come up with new ways of adding value, of keeping us happy actually buying something from them.  


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