Congress pushes more Internet business off-shore

Details are still coming in, but it looks like the U.S. Government is hoping to make it more attractive for Internet Radio businesses to be run off-shore then in the States. The decision (like much Internet-related policy) creates a market condition that potentially pushes revenue and innovation to other countries.

“The new rules issued by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board earlier this year prescribe rate hikes of 0.08 cent per song per listener retroactive to 2006. They would also climb to 0.19 cent per song by 2010.” [cnet]

The fees are high enough that many small players (where small==independent) will be forced to shut down. The irony, of course, is that broadcast radio continues to pay no fees at all (and to not play the songs I want to hear, which might be why they get the free ride.)

For more on the issue, see:

And of course, the blog post that almost saved the day:

Local Search patent wars: another reason software patents suck

Found this today on TechCrunch, “Patent Wars: Local.com Nabs Local Search Patent“.

From the post:

“Local.com saw its stock price rise 52% today after it was awarded patent number 7,200,413 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. According to the text of the patent, it covers what they term “Enhanced Directory Assistance”, which will deliver keyword specific ad referrals based on user input via operator, SMS, WAP, or voice.

This is in addition to their recently granted patent number 7,231,405, which covers crawling the web and geocoding location based content.”

That second bit is even more troubling, since it could impact anyone crawling web pages for addresses. The unfortunate thing is that we’re just starting to see sites doing interesting things with scraping and geocoding — and many of the possibilities are actually quite helpful. For example, sites like Zillow already scrape property addresses from local tax records and plot real estate prices on an interactive map… Chicago Crime plots scraped crime reports… Heck, anything that scrapes content with an address for use in plotting on a map would conflict with this patent.

If the idea of locking down automated crawling and geocoding isn’t enough to raise concern, check of these listings of mapping-related concepts that may also end up off-limits if the patent race continues:

The Hindenburg and the AACS

There was a bit on NPR this morning about the Hindenburg (today is the 70th anniversary of its crash), and the part of the story that stood out the most to me was that the majority of deaths were caused by people jumping out of the burning ship, rather then staying on-board. Wikipedia has this to say:

Despite the violent fire, most of the crew and passengers survived. Of the 36 passengers and 61 crew, 13 passengers and 22 crew died. Also killed was one member of the ground crew, Navy Linesman Allen Hagaman. Most deaths did not arise from the fire but were suffered by those who leapt from the burning ship. (The lighter-than-air fire burned overhead.) Those passengers who rode the ship on its descent to the ground survived. (Via Wikipedia.)

Its interesting how counter-intuitive it is that riding a burning ship to the ground would be safer. Although perhaps people have learned that lesson. The recent explosion in public mockery of the AACS decryption keys certainly hasn’t deterred the HD-DVD crowd from hanging on to a technology that’s going down in flames. Calling it a “lost cause” isn’t close to capturing the humor in this statement:

Michael Ayers, the chairman of the AACS-LA … vows to use technical and legal means to shut down the 802,000+ websites that have reproduced the key. (Via BoingBoing, “AACS vows to fight people who publish the key“.)

Although perhaps the difference is that people like airships… and no one likes DRM.

Dead birds shut down downtown Austin (was: First day in the new office)

inspectors on Congress Ave.

I was hoping to start today by posting a few pictures of our brand-new Optaros office in downtown Austin. Today was to be our first day in the new space. Unfortunately, downtown Austin is closed today, after authorities found a number (possibly dozens) of dead birds along Congress Ave (the street the office is on), which happens to be right in front of the State Capitol building. With the legislative session scheduled to begin tomorrow, the authorities have taken an extra-paranoid view on the situation (which is fine by me.)

The State called in the police, fire department, and the 6th Civil Support Team (WMD) a “Texas National Guard unit, created in 1999 to respond to terrorist incidents involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, as well as other disasters and catastrophic events, both natural and man made.”

As of 10:45am, the local paper (The Statesman) and news sites have no updates.

For more:

hazmat suits on Congress Ave.

[Update: 11:15am]
The news makes it to MSNBC, which reports that the dead bird count is more like 60! Downtown Austin shut down after bird deaths