If you’re like me, your digital media life is messy. If I were to take inventory of where all my digital media resides, the list would include Flickr, Facebook, iTunes, Android, Netflix, YouTube, Picasa, Flipshare, Amazon, Kindle, iBooks, Windows PC, Mac, iPad and so on.
Like I said, a mess.
And while I’m an early adopter, I’m probably not very different from tens of millions of consumers who face digital media anarchy every day across the various screens, accounts and software populating their life.
Apple is the first company to even come close to helping us manage this chaos, with iTunes. After it was first introduced a decade ago, the service became hugely popular partly because it was the first cohesive management tool for first music, then later other types of media.
But iTunes has gotten flabby with age, and the creaking has gotten more noticeable lately as the cloud becomes more and more important for digital media storage. In a way, iTunes has become the Windows of consumer media management — dominant but a relic of a past era.
The bottom line is that consumers want their media storage simpler, not more complicated; the push of content upward into the cloud presents that opportunity, not just for Apple, but for a handful of competitors as well. Proximity and control over content management and playback means a bigger stake in consumer purchase behavior (both for content itself and, in the case of Apple, the playback devices). The bigger the stake, the more monetization through a direct storefront, affiliate/partner, or advertising.
So who could — and should — create iTunes in the cloud?
Sometimes the sheer wrongness of what is posted on the web leaves us speechless. Especially when it’s picked up and repeated as gospel by otherwise reputable sites like Engadget. “Google copied Oracle’s Java code, pasted in a new license, and shipped it,” they reported this morning.
Sorry, but that just isn’t true.
It all started with an article written by Florian Mueller, who by the way is neither a lawyer nor a developer although he plays one on TV. I downloaded and examined all the files he wrote about, and my analysis as an expert developer comes to a completely different conclusion than Mr. Mueller. Here’s what I found:
Florian Mueller has been killing it these past few months with his analysis of various tech patent suits on his FOSSpatents blog, and today he’s unearthed a pretty major bombshell: at least 43 Android source files that appear to have been directly copied from Java. That’s a big deal, seeing as Oracle is currently suing Google for patent and copyright infringement in Android — which isn’t a hard case to prove when you’ve got 37 Android source files marked “PROPRIETARY / CONFIDENTIAL” and “DO NOT DISTRIBUTE” by Oracle / Sun and at least six more files in Froyo and Gingerbread that appear to have been decompiled from Java 2 Standard Edition and redistributed under the Apache open source license without permission. In simple terms? Google copied Oracle’s Java code, pasted in a new license, and shipped it.
Now, we’ve long thought Google’s odd response to Oracle’s lawsuit seemingly acknowledged some infringement, so we doubt this is a surprise in Mountain View, but we’re guessing handset vendors aren’t going to be so thrilled — especially since using Android has already caused companies like HTC and Motorola to be hit with major patent lawsuits of their own. We’ll see what happens, but in the meantime you should definitely hit up Florian’s site for the full dirt — it’s some 47 pages worth of material, and it’s dense, but if you’re into this sort of thing it’s incredibly interesting.
AS ANYONE who has ever wiggled in his seat at a classical concert or stared in disbelief at a work of conceptual art can attest, culture in America has usually been imposed from the top down. Media executives, academics, elite tastemakers, and of course critics determined what was good and what wasn’t, what would have cultural purchase and what wouldn’t, what would get rewarded and what wouldn’t. Which isn’t to say that ordinary folks were entirely passive in this process. Early in the Republic they began a counter popular culture to challenge the so-called “official’’ culture, and it survives today to the point where it has often merged with high culture. But the cultural hierarchy held on.
Or at least it did. Among the many effects of the Internet, one of the most significant has been the democratization of cultural influence. No longer does the New York Times or the New Yorker or Time anoint the books we should be reading, the movies and TV shows we should be watching, the music we should be listening to. A populist aggregating website like Rotten Tomatoes that awards fresh or rotten tomatoes to movies, or Ain’t It Cool News, which preempts most mainstream film criticism by reporting on movies first, probably has more power than all the tonier critics combined. And Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace certainly have a great impact. One has only to look at “American Idol’’ to see how regular citizens have seized control of starmaking.
Naturally, no one relinquishes that kind of control willingly, which is why the old cultural imperialists joined forces recently in several bold attempts to show that they still mattered. But what is striking about these forays is not that they happened but that they were ultimately unsuccessful. For over 200 years, normal Americans have longed to exercise their cultural independence and free themselves from the tyranny of the elitists. Last year they did. In effect, the elitist empire struck back and then struck out.
The story of homeless radio announcer Ted Williams became an Internet sensation this week, as a video of him got passed around on Twitter and in the blogosphere, and quickly led to appearances on the Today Show and job offers from around the country. But the video that started it all — an interview with a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch newspaper in Ohio — is no longer available on YouTube. In yet another example of a newspaper that can’t see the forest for the dead trees, there is just a statement from the video-hosting site that the clip “has been removed due to a copyright claim by The Dispatch.”
A web editor in the Dispatch newsroom seemed confused when asked why the paper ordered YouTube to take the clip down. “It’s our video, and someone put it there without our permission,” he said. All of which is true; the original clip was copied from the Dispatch site and uploaded to YouTube, and therefore the newspaper had a pretty clear copyright claim. The video can still be seen at the Dispatch website, along with other videos related to the Williams story. But how many people are going to watch the video there? Likely a fraction of the 13 million who watched it on YouTube.