Major media publisher admits it is ‘afraid of Google’
By Olivia Solon
Apr 18 2014
The chief executive of Axel Springer, one of Europe’s largest media publishers, has said that his company is afraid of the power that Google has accumulated, and worries that the search giant is becoming a “superstate” immune from regulation.
Mathias Döpfner published an open letter to Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in which he points out that Google is not only the largest search engine in the world, but the largest video platform, the largest browser and the most used email service and mobile operating system. The open letter was published as a response to a guest column written by Schmidt in the same newspaper.
Döpfner goes on to talk about the “schizophrenic” relationship between Axel Springer and Google. On one hand the publisher is part of a European antitrust lawsuit against the search giant, while it’s also relies on Google’s traffic and ad revenue. “We know of no alternative that even begins to offer similar technological requirements for automated advertising sales and we cannot do without this source of income,” he says.
He refers to a case where a change to Google’s algorithm led to a drop in traffic to an Axel Springer subsidiary of 70 percent: “This is a real case. And that subsidiary is a competitor of Google… I am sure it is a coincidence.”
“We are afraid of Google,” he added.
He went on to talk of Google’s monopoly, with its 90 percent market share in web searches (March 2014 figures). “The market belongs to only one,” he said.
He points out that Google lists its own products — from commerce to Google+ profiles — higher up than competitor results, even if the competitor website has more visitors. “This is called abuse of a dominant position,” he says. Despite this, the European Commission effectively sanctioned Google’s approach as long as Google offers a new advertising position at the start of the search list where the discriminated company can pay to advertise.
“This is not a compromise,” said Döpfner, “this is the EU officially sanctioning your business model, which is called ‘protection money’ in less honourable circles.”
Döpfner also makes reference to the “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” argument espoused at different times by Schmidt and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, pointing out that such words could also come from the “head of the Stasi” or another dictator’s intelligence agency.
“Google know more about every digital citizen than George Orwell dared to imagine in his wildest visions of 1984,” he says. Döpfner is particularly concerned about comments made by founder Larry Page, who said that there are lots of things the company would like to do but can’t do because they are illegal — pesky antitrust and privacy laws get in the way. Google has also expressed an interest in building floating working environments — for “seasteading”.
Antennas for us all: How Aereo wound up at the Supreme Court
In 1976, what was Congress saying about the future of television?
By Joe Mullin
Apr 20 2014
In the year before Aereo launched, chief executive Chet Kanojia held meetings with executives from the broadcasters who would later sue his company. He explained the idea behind the company: renting a tiny antenna to each customer would keep it within the bounds of copyright law while allowing users to have a host of features usually only available to cable subscribers.
The idea was to use the Internet and cheap cloud storage to give new life to a way of watching TV that was fading: free, over-the-air broadcasts. Put the antenna in the cloud, add the kind of recording and storage abilities that consumers came to expect with television, and offer it at a fraction of the price of a typical cable subscription.
“Their reaction was no reaction,” Kanojia recalled in an interview with Ars. “It was, hmm, interesting.”
By February 2012 with the service promoting its imminent launch in New York City, the silence from the TV stations seemed ominous. When Aereo’s launch was covered in the New York Times, broadcasters declined to comment.
“We understand that when you try to take something meaningful on, you have to be prepared for challenges,” Kanojia said then.
The next month, the first lawsuit was filed. It wouldn’t be the last. A flurry of litigation, from Boston to Salt Lake City, has pushed the copyright fight to the US Supreme Court, where it will be argued on Tuesday.
Aereo has been mostly winning the court battles so far, and it won a major victory at the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, the only appeals court to consider the case. In Utah, however, a federal judge banned Aereo from six states, including two markets in which it was already operating.
The Supreme Court is going to decide things one way or the other, which makes the Aereo case the highest-profile copyright battle since the 2008 Cablevision case that legalized remote DVRs. The stakes are higher than the Cablevision case as well, even if one ignores some of the wilder rhetoric around the case. (Executives at Fox and CBS suggested they might stop broadcasting over the air if they lose.)
The Aereo argument on Tuesday is the broadcasters’ last and best chance to dismantle the Cablevision precedent, which they loathe. For Aereo, it’s a life or death case; textbook “bet the company” litigation. Kanojia says he doesn’t know what the company’s future will look like if they don’t win. “Frankly, I don’t think about it,” he said.
In one way, the Aereo fight is the latest incarnation in a battle over consumers’ right to record and make copies, a tension that has existed at least since the rise of videotape.
Aereo will be missing a few political advantages that Sony had when it won itsseminal legal victory 30 years ago. By the time the Betamax case was decided by the Supreme Court in 1984, millions of consumers had video recorders. A gadget-crazed nation found its new favorite; the households that didn’t have one, for the most part, wanted one. Aereo, by contrast, is still largely unknown to the US public. It’s available in just 11 cities.
[Note: This item comes from reader Randall Head. DLH]
From: Randall Webmail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Yes, it is fundamenally erroneous – is that any reason we can’t still believe it?
Date: April 20, 2014 at 16:49:57 EDT
To: Dewayne Hendricks <email@example.com>
Time to stop following defunct economic policies
By Anatole Kaletsky
Apr 19 2014
Can economists contribute anything useful to our understanding of politics, business and finance in the real world?
I raise this question having spent last weekend in Toronto at the annual conference of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a foundation created in 2009 in response to the failure of modern economics in the global financial crisis (whose board I currently chair). Unfortunately, the question raised above is as troubling today as it was in November 2008, when Britain’s Queen Elizabeth famously stunned the head of the London School of Economics by asking faux naively, “But why did nobody foresee this [economic collapse]?”
As John Maynard Keynes observed in 1936, when he challenged the economic orthodoxies that were aggravating the Great Depression: “The ideas of economists, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.”
This remark is as relevant today as in 1936. Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate, asked rhetorically in Toronto: “Why are central banks and governments still trying to predict the effects of their policies with an economic model that is manifestly absurd?”
His answer was that the economic models studied in universities and published in leading academic journals are still largely based on a simplifying concept, known as the Representative Agent, which effectively assumes that “everyone in the economy is the same.” So these models have nothing to say about lending or borrowing, ignore the existence of banks and treat bankruptcies as unimportant because “when the borrower does not repay, he only defaults on himself.”
Amazingly, these economic models with no banks are still the main analytical tool used by most central banks. Peeling away further layers of the theoretical onion reveals something even more bizarre: an inbuilt assumption that the economy is self-stabilizing. This means that virtually any policies the central bank may choose to follow will lead automatically to full employment — in the forecasts, if not in the real world.
The pernicious effects of such stilted thinking are most visible in Europe. As Adair Turner, former chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority and now an INET Senior Fellow argued, the rules for the eurozone agreed in 1991 were based on the belief that “economists had cracked the problem of macroeconomics – that low and stable inflation was not just necessary, but sufficient for economic success.”
Making matters worse for Europe, this hubris among economists was combined in the Maastricht Treaty with the German concept of “ordo-liberalism,” which asserted that government’s only legitimate role was to set clear rules for competition and price stability and then strictly enforce them.
“This was why the Bundesbank’s legal department became as powerful as its economic department,” Turner noted, “and why Germany has been so unbending in its interpretation of the euro rules. We now know that ordo-liberalism does not work in macroeconomics. But the entrenchment of these old economic ideas, even after they have been proved wrong, is so great that any change will be very slow.”
As a result, Turner concluded, Europe “could look remarkably like Japan in the 1990s, with many years of very low growth — but probably much greater social tension, because Europe’s immigration-based societies are much less uniform and consensual than Japan’s.”
How could economists break this pernicious grip of old ideas? The obvious answer is by developing new ideas and many were presented at Toronto: Forecasting currencies with a new technique called Imperfect Knowledge Economics developed in New York and Copenhagen; understanding the role of government in technological innovation through work in Cambridge and Massachusetts; analyzing the role of self-fulfilling “reflexive” expectations in boom-bust cycles; applying the mathematics of complex systems to economic problems ranging from financial instability to housing and the competitiveness of developing countries in Oxford and Rome; funding work in Paris and Berkeley on income distribution that is attracting worldwide attention; researching the economics of education and childhood development through a global network led from Chicago; developing new undergraduate courses on subjects neglected by the traditional curriculum with an international team of professors run from University College London and Bangalore; restoring the study of economic history through workshops in Italy and the United States.
Aereo analysis: Cloud computing at a crossroads
From the copyleft to Google and Mozilla, they say a win for TV broadcasters could doom the cloud.
By David Kravets
Apr 20 2014
The question of whether online broadcast television is to remain in the hands of a stodgy industry that once declared the VCR the enemy is being put directly before the Supreme Court.
Broadcasters’ latest legal target is 2-year-old upstart Aereo—which retransmits over-the-air broadcast television using dime-sized antennas to paying consumers, who can watch TV online or record it for later viewing. Broadcasters like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and others haven’t given Aereo permission to do that, and they say it violates US copyright law.
The industry will ask the Supreme Court during a Tuesday hearing to kill the New York-based Aereo service. The high-stakes oral arguments come 30 years after Hollywood told the justices that the VCR—and its time-shifting elements—would doom television and its producers forever.
An industry on the line
An outcome perhaps more important than who controls the broadcast airways has generated a great amount of concern, and it’s not just the expected chorus from the copyleft. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Yahoo, and others are worried that a victory for the broadcasters could upend the cloud.
They contend that the broadcasters’ position “would threaten one of the most important and emerging industries in the US economy: cloud computing” (PDF).
The companies, in briefs trade associations, told the justices in a recent filing that the “dramatic expansion of the cloud computing sector, bringing with it real benefits previously only imagined in science fiction, depends upon an interpretation of the Copyright Act that allows adequate breathing room for transmissions of content.”
For the moment, a federal appeals court has deemed Aereo’s service legal, and the cloud-computing market, expected to be a $1.1 trillion industry by next year, is safe, at least until the justices rule in the months ahead.
For Aereo, unless the Supreme Court says otherwise, it’s free to retransmit broadcast signals without paying licensing fees to the broadcasters. That’s something not even the cable companies can get away with, and it’s got broadcasters and cable companies seething.
But a federal appeals court said that Aereo’s service is akin to a consumer putting a broadcast antenna atop their dwelling. Aereo, the appeals court ruled, “provides the functionality of three devices: a standard TV antenna, a DVR, and a Slingbox” (PDF).
Not so fast, the broadcasters claim. They say it’s a copyright breach because Aereo hasn’t paid fees to the broadcasters to retransmit their content. They say that the dissemination of the content amounts to a “public performance” requiring the broadcasters’ consent.
The broadcasters said that it’s far-fetched to analogize Aereo to the likes of services like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and other cloud services. Claims that cloud storage hangs in the balance are overblown, they said.
“There is an obvious difference between a service that merely stores and provides an individual user access to copies of copyrighted content that the user already has legally obtained, and a service that offers the copyrighted content itself to the public at large,” they said.
Aereo isn’t exactly a cloud provider. Yet what the broadcasters say it can’t do has the cloud industry closely following the startup’s legal battles and business model.
[Note: This item comes from reader Monty Solomon. DLH]
From: Monty Solomon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: TV Done Right: Still A Dream
Date: April 20, 2014 at 14:41:52 EDT
TV Done Right: Still A Dream
Mar 30, 2014
By Jean-Louis Gassée
As the strong reactions to even the slightest Apple TV rumor
demonstrate, there’s a vigorous appetite for a simple, modern
Internet TV experience. The technology is ready but carriers aren’t.
Last week started with Big Apple TV News in an authoritative-sounding
Wall Street Journal article:
“Apple Inc. is in talks with Comcast Corp. about teaming up for a
streaming-television service that would use an Apple set-top box and
get special treatment on Comcast’s cables to ensure it bypasses
congestion on the Web, people familiar with the matter say.”
Search for “Comcast” in a news aggregator such as Feedly (there are
many other good choices), and you’ll see a wide range of reactions to
the Apple-Comcast rumor. Given the heat the article generated, it’s
odd that there has been zero follow-up from the main players -
nothing from Apple and Comcast, no additional information in the WSJ
or any other journal. When a deal of such importance is in the works,
“people familiar with the matter” have a strong incentive to keep
talking, to add color, to spin their side of the story. Of course, no
one expects Apple to do much leaking, but the radio silence from
Comcast spinmeisters is another matter entirely.
Philip Elmer-DeWitt offers the most likely explanation: The Wall
Street Journal got played by someone intent on throwing a wrench into
Comcast’s plan to acquire Time Warner’s cable operations. (This
wouldn’t be the first time: Cellphone carriers have repeatedly used
the WSJ to air their perennial Poor Me complaints about excessive
[Note: This item comes from reader Monty Solomon. DLH]
From: Monty Solomon <email@example.com>
Subject: Comcast’s Real Repairman
Date: April 20, 2014 at 15:45:56 EDT
Comcast’s Real Repairman
By MICHAEL SOKOLOVE
APRIL 19, 2014
One morning late last month, David L. Cohen took a seat in a
conference room atop Comcast’s corporate headquarters in
Philadelphia, the tallest building in the city, and was handed a
binder of architectural drawings. The plans were for a second Comcast
skyscraper, taller than the first, because the growing company needs
Mr. Cohen, 59, Comcast’s executive vice president, studied the
drawings and directed a series of questions toward a video screen
that connected him to a representative of the developer and a Comcast
executive in New York. On what floor should the cafeteria go? How
many cars could be parked in a small underground garage, and had
anyone done a traffic study of the narrow city street where the
garage would exit? Since the new building is intended for engineers
and other high-tech workers, would the ratio of square footage per
employee be similar to that of the Comcast facility in Silicon Valley?
Mr. Cohen is well known in Philadelphia from his time as chief of
staff to former Mayor Edward G. Rendell in the 1990s, a six-year
tenure that established his reputation as a master of big-picture
strategy, fine detail and just about everything in between.
[Note: This comment comes from friend Janos Gereben. DLH]
From: janosG <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Draining reservoir after urination incident shows tenuous grasp of science
Date: April 20, 2014 at 15:46:40 EDT
From a friend in Portland:
There is a lot of political backstory to this. A few years ago the water bureau (which is very corrupt) hired a company that does a lot of work for it to lobby the EPA to require enclosed water supplies. The EPA passed a provisional ruling on this and then a number of companies that were closely allied with the lobbying effort got the contracts to build underwater storage tanks. Which currently leak and so cannot be used.
Now the city is pointing to this as a reason that the underwater tanks are needed – no mention that the 13 different chemicals that they put in the water would have taken care of any issue. There is an effort afoot to take the water bureau away from the city and I am sure that is why they drained it. Since I have lived here my water bill has increased 73% in the last ten years and are expected to rise another 55% in the next five
Draining reservoir after urination incident shows tenuous grasp of science
Portland throws out 38 million gallons of water after someone peed in it.
By Casey Johnston
Apr 20 2014